This week I am inspired to consider how IoT might be useful to Santa Claus.
Santa Claus operates on a scale that’s far bigger than the Internet. His operations are the very definition of “at scale.” Santa Claus Inc. is a complex, multi-national, large scale business for which the IT capacity requirements are highly variable.
For Santa, even something as simple as scheduling public appearances could be a major effort.
Santa Claus is an early adopter of IT. He already does a lot of processing in the clouds (via hyper-scale sleigh-based data centres). Much of his “packaging” business uses the Amazon model and offers guaranteed same day delivery. He is pretty much carbon neutral, at least for his delivery operations.
So, IoT is a natural next step. Here’s a few thoughts on what IoT could do to help Santa be more successful:
Toys are IoT “things” too and many are now connected.
Toys could report on themselves. It is possible to track popularity, use (or mis-use), location, breakages, performance over time and even which toys are left sitting on store shelves. A wealth of marketing and design data can be gathered. While this data is standard for online services such as Google, IoT can extend this level of awareness to include physical things too.
Toys that interact with each other and with other “things” on the grid could demonstrate that the whole is greater than the sum of the electronic parts. Perhaps a doll or robot will soon interact with the television, making programs really come to life!
Home “things” can provide safety services (such as smoke detection), health services and assistive services. A connected toothbrush, for example.
Santa could offer virtual presents – online books or courses can be considered as IoT “things.” Santa could deliver these without ever leaving the North Pole. Also, Artificial Intelligence provides major new opportunities for innovation at virtually all levels of toy design and development.
Production and delivery
Santa has many of the same issues that companies like Amazon face; these companies can be models for disrupting Santa’s business and could even become his partners.
Santa manufacturers his own “things” and acquires products from other suppliers. He tags and tracks his “things” inventory, monitors his supply chain and manages his warehouses. There are a lot of processes involved and many opportunities for adding sensors and for using robotic elves.
Perhaps drone-based delivery will be available soon, but can a drone go down a chimney? At the very least, Santa must guard against running into other drones with his sleigh. If his sleigh becomes a large autonomous flying vehicle, then Santa could stay warm by his (virtual) fireplace at the North Pole while his sleighs circle the globe on their own?
Sleigh maintenance will be enhanced significantly using sensors that collect mileage and performance data. In fact, the sleigh should be fully wired for mobile communications and operations control (assuming Santa is still on-board). Plus, he needs to be in contact with Mrs. Claus and the elves all the time.
Excellence in the customer experience is critical for Santa Claus.
Sitting on Santa’s knee in a shopping centre is no longer enough to keep the customers happy. Also, since it’s not a virtual experience, it does not scale well. All aspects of the Santa experience – everything from seasonal advertising to email responses to timely delivery and even to returns and replacements must all be a jolly “HoHoHo” experience. Santa cannot have systems outages!
Santa should consider live streaming over Facebook or Periscope (or something similar). There are many ways to enhance Santa’s relationship with his customers, both at Christmas and throughout the year.
Finally, Santa must have an exemplary CRM system. He needs to keep track of his customers year-round and record millions of moves, adds and changes. It will require billions of IoT sensors just to determine with certainty who has been naughty or nice (even if you can define those terms!). Without advanced CRM capabilities, Santa would be totally unable to accomplish his mission.
Santa is likely to be audited. He will require a reputation system and a trust system so that he can maintain his stature in society and defend against security and privacy violations (especially when laws are different wherever he goes). At the very least, Santa must be able to prove his identity when he arrives down the chimney and meets a home defense robot.
Internet for Santa
We should not forget that Santa will require networking services everywhere.
The network must be wireless (for the sleigh), low power (batteries and heavy), readily available everywhere and easily accessible. Hopefully he will not have to have different passwords for every house he visits!
In summary, Santa Claus would be well advised to seek out expert help on his digital transformation journey. There are many options for self-disruption in the business of Christmas.
This is what I think, do you have any better advice?