Tech, telecom companies offer kids new ways to track Santa’s trip

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Santa
People can follow Santa from takeoff to landing Thursday. (Kevin Mooney/Flickr)

Santa may see kids while they’re sleeping, but with the help of Microsoft, Verizon and the Pentagon’s North American Aerospace Defense Command, the kiddies can keep track of Kris Kringle during Christmas Eve across all of their devices.

Microsoft has integrated Windows 10, Microsoft Edge and Cortana into NORAD’s Santa Tracker, which will mark its 60th anniversary this year. Before the tracker kicks into gear on the 24th, kids can explore various movies and interactive features on the website, including a virtual coloring book via Microsoft Edge.

If you search for Santa on Windows 10 Maps app, it will point toward a special feature that shows Santa hard at work in his workshop.

“On Christmas Eve, people really explore the Santa Tracker, but this site is also about the anticipation and buildup to that,” said Matthew Quinlan, director of product marketing for Microsoft’s Bing. “This becomes a place where families can visit on a daily basis.”

Another section of the Maps feature allows kids to learn more about holiday customs around the world.

“Last year, we put in links where you could see where Santa is, and then click through Bing to find out more,” Quinlan said. “We’ve updated the experience so it’s now got a carousel with some of the major cities so it’s easier to explore, and we’ve got these richer answers in Bing.”

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What Cortana will tell you when you ask it to find Santa this year. (Microsoft)

Once Christmas Eve rolls around, there a few ways to track Santa as he makes his worldwide trip. There is an app directly dedicated to watching him, as well as the ability to ask Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri (and available on iOS and Android devices), to find Santa’s exact coordinates.

There is also the more traditional way of tracking Santa by picking up the phone and giving NORAD a call.

Over 1,500 volunteers spend 23 hours taking hundreds of thousands of calls from 234 countries and territories.

“It’s a global effort, sometimes it’s just a matter of investing a little bit of time to spread the happiness everywhere,” said Darren Green, a Verizon customer service associate who volunteered for the first time this year. Green said he remembers calling when he was younger, after reading about the tracker with his five brothers while growing up in Salt Lake City.

Fred Mooney never called when he was a kid, but spent time during his 28 years in the Air Force manning the tracker’s call center at Peterson Air Force Base. Mooney has been volunteering with his wife and daughter for the past five years.

“We get a lot of really young kids where their parents corral them around the speakerphone,” Mooney said. “Then we get some slightly older kids who call in on their own or some skeptic teenagers, but typically it’s a father or mother, and the kid asks questions, and you can hear the excitement and the anticipation in their voices.”

Mooney, who speaks French, often handles calls from kids in France or Quebec, while his wife, a native of Ukraine, takes calls from anyone speaking Russian.

Last year, volunteers spent Christmas Eve answering 134,970 calls and 6,500 emails.

You can track Santa’s Thursday trip by calling 1-877-HI-NORAD (1-877-446-6723).

Contact the reporter on the this story via email greg.otto@fedscoop.com; or follow him on Twitter at @gregotto. Subscribe to the Daily Scoop for stories like this in your inbox every morning by signing up here: fdscp.com/sign-me-on.

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Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, Microsoft, mobile and wireless, mobility, Tech, Verizon
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