This may not be entirely within the Christmas spirit, but when I saw this video clip from a technology magazine based in the U.K. I was instantly jealous that we didn’t come up with the concept first.
Although I’m by no means qualified to enter this contest, it did get me thinking about how, if I were a CIO working for Santa, I might be able to do something beyond just making sure the North Pole’s data centre is running smoothly and come out with a stand-out IT initiative. Of course, my brainstorming immediately took me to the Internet of Things (IoT).
Having heard from a wide range of analysts about what the IoT could offer businesses, I thought through some of the use-case scenarios that would make sense for someone like Santa, who is running a consistent, even predictable service on a global scale. How would sensors and related technologies allow new things to be IP-connected in such a way that they could provide actionable data to improve customer satisfaction? It actually didn’t take that long. Here’s the shortlist:
1. Predictive maintenance: Like a lot of businesses, Santa’s work would grind to a halt if certain pieces of equipment failed. In his case, it’s the sleigh. Showing what level of scrapes and nicks it endures over the course of Christmas Eve would allow his CIO to potentially reduce the need for sudden repairs, speeding up delivery times.
2. Product engagement: It might border on the too-creepy side, but sensors on gifts would give Santa insight on which gifts were opened first, any difficulty in opening them and, perhaps crucially, how quickly and how often toys are played with. That would give Santa a better sense of whether what’s coming out of the workshop is really meeting demand and if there are steps in the packaging process that could be optimized.
3. Health and safety: Chimneys are inherently dangerous, and as things get chillier, Santa faces the ever-present risk that there might be some fireplaces actively burning when he’s ready to drop in. Sensor-enabled chimneys could transmit that data to the sleigh’s GPS, so he could be re-routed accordingly.
4. Inventory control: Connected plates and cups would provide intelligence on who’s put out the milk and cookies — which would probably influence whose homes move up on the priority list. After all, Santa’s gotta eat.
5. Smart home: Or in this case, a smart North Pole. If nothing else, Santa would benefit from one of those connected thermostats so that he could ensure, after another long night, he’ll come home to a toasty-warm bed.
Sure, this may all sound a bit silly, but one of the big challenges for real-world CIOs in 2015 will be figuring out how best to apply the IoT. Thinking through an organization — even a far-fetched one — other than your own is one way to get at those ideas. Once you do that well, it becomes an essential skill for IT leaders. You might even call it a gift.