Even though he might now be in contravention of GDPR (article 4 of regulation 2016/679, in case you were curious), Father Christmas is an unmistakably analogue creation. With a wooden sleigh and flesh and blood reindeer held aloft by little more than a generous sprinkling of Christmas magic, he’s a relic of a bygone era; a wooden horse in a world of robot pets. Basically, he’s out of date and in drastic need of some modernisation. He needs app tech.
Calvium put the feelers out at this year’s Christmas party to ask our *ahem* relaxed team what features they thought that both the iSanta app and the tech behind the scenes could bring to the table in order to improve the speed, efficiency and accuracy of the great sleigh ride this year.
Some of the answers should, of course, be taken with a hefty pinch of sugar and cinnamon, but there are actually a few genuinely inspired ideas here. If you’re willing to look past the puns.
The Autonomous Sleigh
Whilst they might have gotten off to a rather shaky start, automated vehicles are slowly filtering into the mainstream. Indeed, Google spin-off Waymo recently launched its self-driving taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona, with autonomous taxis that can be called and controlled via a bespoke app. Santa could take a leaf out of Google’s book and make his sleigh self-driving. Then he can give those poor, overworked magic reindeer a much-needed rest and indulge himself in as much free brandy as his heart desires.
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An onboard computer would mean Santa could control not only the internal temperature and festive playlist onboard his sleigh (here’s hoping he managed to beat Whamageddon this year!), but would be able to summon it to his GPS-mapped location and even send it elsewhere if he needs to pick up a friend. Because even Santa needs a little help sometimes.
When you’re dealing with millions of deliveries, you could probably use all the help you can get. Santa could consider using digital twin technology to create digital representations of all the major towns and cities in which he’ll be dropping his festive payloads. He could use this tech to aid in planning the distribution of his gifts and it could all be controlled from within an app. Imagine it like Google Maps, only with a little more power and a lot more magic.
The Internet of Things
Whilst the concept of Santa asking Siri or Alexa for navigational help might seem far-fetched, what if he had his very own voice-controlled IoT helper? An “Ask Elf” function, that would allow him to check on the weather in Singapore whilst he was delivering presents in Birmingham? This handy, voice-activated helper would not only allow Santa to plan the best route for his deliveries, but would allow him to check plane flight paths, check on Mrs Claus back at the North Pole and remind him to feed the reindeer.
Speaking of which, with IoT connectivity, the reindeer could all be connected to the app, so if one decides to abandon its post or nip off for a quick tinkle, Santa will always know exactly where it is. With companies set to spend an estimated $434.9 billion on IoT tech by 2023, it’s certainly the right time for Santa to climb on board the bandwagon to increase his efficiency and comfort with IoT integration.
Of course, an iSanta app would work both ways: One app for the man himself and a companion app for the parents of good girls and boys across the globe. In years past, parents and children alike were left to wonder when he would make his annual delivery, but with the convenience and power of modern GPS tracking allowing for up to 14,000 location alerts a day, families could know where Santa was on his route at all times. Think the Yodel app but with billions of deliveries.
This means parents would not only know exactly when they needed to have the mince pies and brandy ready, but they would be able to know when to put their kids to bed too. Of course, with the millions of houses Santa has to visit on Christmas Eve, the tracking dot would probably move faster than the human eye could possibly comprehend, but the app would be able to offer a rough time-frame estimate that parents could use to plan their evening around Santa’s visit.
Naughty or Nice List 2.0
The fear of Santa is a powerful weapon that parents have been wielding for decades. Whilst the big man traditionally relied on an intricate network of elves to measure the moral compasses of the world’s young believers, the iSanta app could allow parents to dob in their kids whenever they do something rotten or reward them with a thumbs up whenever they defy expectation and do something positive.
As Santa is magic, he could also include safeguards to make sure mum and dad are not cheating the system. With recent advances in AI, the list itself might also soon be surplus to requirements. Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence group recently unveiled an AI that was able to derive thousands of years’ worth of human knowledge relating to the notoriously complex Korean game “Go” in only a matter of days. This is an AI that can learn from a blank slate, so it could potentially be used to analyse the behavioural patterns of children and adapt its “Naughty or Nice” algorithm accordingly. A vaguely terrifying concept, perhaps, but it would certainly give those elf spies a break!
Automated Present Making and Packing
Rather than a fleet of slave elves working themselves to the bone putting together increasingly complicated and demanding toys and contraptions, Santa could automate the production line entirely and let the elves get on with the design and logistical work. The automotive industry has been at it for years and more advanced 3D printing and automated packaging technologies mean it’s now possible for a range of advanced toys and games to be built and packed without the need of human (or elf) intervention.
Sticking with the elf-help motif for a spell; Willmott Dixon recently teamed up with the robotics firm Ekso Bionics to trial an exoskeleton that helps workers with heavy lifting on building sites. Just imagine what the elves in Santa’s workshop could achieve with similar tech! “Bionic Elf” might sound like the name of a bad B-Movie from the 1950s, but there might just be something in it and it would certainly look pretty impressive.
Blockchain is the word at the tip of the tech world’s tongue right now. It’s also a word that precious few people actually understand. Santa, however, understands everything. This year, IBM joined forces with Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, to provide more efficient and secure global trade using blockchain technology. The idea behind the venture is to digitise supply chains and provide greater transparency and simplicity when moving goods across trading zones and borders. As someone who has to import millions of toys every year (you don’t think the elves actually make PlayStation and Nintendo Switch consoles, do you?), not to mention the logistics involved in modern international parcel delivery, Santa could really take advantage of this burgeoning technology.
With Amazon delivery drones set to touch down in London next year, drone delivery is no longer the stuff of science fiction and it’s the one technology that a certain someone has probably spent his entire (very long) life waiting for. Whilst there is something unmistakably romantic about the idea of Santa Claus spreading his festive joy and delivering millions upon millions of gifts by hand every year, it can’t be an easy task for one man alone, even for a man with supernatural powers and an infinite supply of mince pies.
Imagine a world where Santa can sit by the fireplace with his feet up, using his iSanta app to control a fleet of drones that scatter presents across the globe. It might sound sinister on the surface (like a Christmas special of Black Mirror waiting to happen), but attach a few festive lights and a speaker playing all your favourite Christmas jams and the idea of millions of drones dancing through the night sky on Christmas Eve actually sounds quite magical.
Undoubtedly one of Santa’s greatest grievances is the fact that not all modern homes have a traditional chimney. The iSanta app, however, could take advantage of the popularity of augmented reality and implement an AR Chimney experience, so even though Santa might not be technically making his entrance the traditional way, he can at least visualise it with his smartphone.
We might all like to remember Santa Claus as a figure stuck in the past, but it could be argued that he’s moved with the times more than any other folkloric figure. Santa is certainly not above change, which is important, as if he wasn’t able to adapt, he would have long since faded into irrelevance. If that were to happen it would be a great loss indeed, as, in a world that’s evolving too fast for some of us to handle, we need a figure like Santa Claus. However, he might also need our help once in a while to make sure he’s not left behind as fresh tech trends gain momentum. iSanta and a little tech push in the old workshop would certainly represent a step in the right direction for old St Nick.
We create apps and app experiences for all sorts of businesses, not just festive icons. Take a look at some of our work here. And, of course, have a very Merry Christmas.