Santa’s Big Data Strategic Initiatives Plan

 Santa Claus, CEO

Bigger than Walmart, Santa’s responsibility to provide global distribution makes Amazon’s UAV ambitions seem rather paltry.  Like most major corporations though, Santa is looking to capitalize on emerging technology and Big Data.  Although Santa’s marketing campaigns exude perfection, he still has a tremendous onus to capture market demand (Christmas wish lists) and match them to customer fulfillment (What’s Under the Tree effect.)

Matt Davies takes us into the details of Santa’s efforts.

This is a reblog of Matt Davies Dec 17 2014 post on Splunk.

Christmas 2020. Will big data and IOT change things for Father Christmas? Part I

Data TreeAfter last year’s case study on Santa Claus International, I recently had the opportunity to spend some more time with Father Christmas discussing his long term plans and business strategy for the next 5-10 years called “2020 Vision – Noel Limits”. We covered how the “advent” (geddit?) of technology over the last couple of years has changed the way Father Christmas has to prepare and deliver “positive festive outcomes” throughout the year. We talked about everything from The Internet Of Toys, use of big data and Ho-ho-hodoop, the unfortunately named Christmas Retail Analytics Platform and Augmented Sleigh Service. In part 1 we’ll review Father Christmas’ plans for The Internet Of Toys and in part 2 (tomorrow) we will cover how he plans to use big data and analytics.

Things aren’t getting easier for Father Christmas – more children, with more ways of finding out what they want as gifts, manufacturing toys is on the wane, the need for an improved supply chain and the need to innovate to stay ahead of the internet. Parents are demanding higher KKPIs (Kris Kringle Performance Indicator ) and the number of new houses built without chimneys is making present delivery a big challenge.

From a brand perspective, recent tie-ins with a leading drinks manufacturer have had some success but the much maligned advertising campaign with an underwear company to launch Santa’s Christmas Stockings – “They Stay Up On Christmas Eve” went horribly wrong.

Faced with these long and short term challenges, here’s how Father Christmas’ “2020 Vision – Noel Limits” is going to help:

Part 1 – The Internet of Toys & Sensor Data

Father Christmas is always listening (not in a sinister way like his arch enemy The Grinch) and evaluating how Christmas can be enhanced. He commissioned his technical advisory team to look into how sensor data can improve intelligence across the whole North Pole operation and the logistics of delivery. Project Bauble (the codename for this project) came back with four main areas for improvement:



Drone/Elf Assisted Delivery – the idea of DEAD is to use connected Drones manned by the smallest of the elves to increase the present delivery capacity beyond one sleigh pulled by a number of flying reindeer. This lead to some heated discussion about the plausibility and feasibility of flying reindeer but the issue was resolved by Father Christmas’ wife.

Each drone would have a SIM card in it and this would provide real time information back to North Pole HQ over the mobile phone network. The blueprint of how DEAD would work was based on recent developments in the connected car space. At the time of writing the elves were on strike at the health and safety implications of having to ride drones all the way from the North Pole to the far reaches of the globe.


Connected manufacturing – Father Christmas is planning to use iBeacons across the North Pole factory to make the creation of toys more efficient in order to meet increased demand from greedy modern children. This technology can identify where toy parts, elves and reindeer are across the whole estate, and streamline the process. This also lead to an interesting discussion from Olav the elf who spoke about the Industry 4.0 initiative in Germany where sensor data is part of the manufacturing process and how this could be rolled out by Father Christmas.

T2T (Toy2Toy) – The third suggestion was to innovate in the area of toy creation by having toys that could communicate with each other using sensor data and embedded intelligence in the toys. This would mean that children could get their toys to interact with each other. Father Christmas was also interested in the idea of remotely supporting toys and providing pre-emptive fixes, to ensure no disappointed children would open broken toys on Christmas day.

CLOUD – The final discussion was how to deliver the capacity to manage all of this. Everyone decided that this needed to be a managed, elastic service to deal with the peak of demand in December. They decided on the idea of the CLOUD (Christmas Logistics Operations Under Duress) program to provide the applications and infrastructure needed to deliver what was required without having to build it all themselves.

change things for Father Christmas? Part II (again – repost of Matt Davies at Splunk)


In part 1 we discussed how Father Christmas is planning to use sensor data for the Internet of Toys.

In part 2 we’re going to discuss how he is going to use very large data sets to build out his Christmas 2020 technology strategy.

Big Data & Analytics

There’s a lot of information that goes into making Christmas a success. This data includes:

  • Social media sentiment about good or naughty children
  • Christmas present lists from children (both digitized scanned letters and increasingly electronic present lists)
  • Data from toys and manufacturing equipment to spot patterns in quality control
  • 500 years of Christmas Eve delivery data to help optimize sleigh route planning
  • Reindeer biometric information to ensure optimum performance and calculate the right mix of en-route carrot/mince pie/sherry consumption during delivery (or milk and cookies for his American visits)

There are many Elfabytes of data (1 Elfabyte = 1024 Zetabytes) that Father Christmas needs to keep, search, investigate and analyse. To this end, another technical working group was set up under the banner of “Project Christmas Tree”. It was decided that what was really needed was a Christmas Retail Analytics Platform (named after a particularly long, not particulary ‘elfy roundtable discussion that wasn’t entirely positive).

To support the storage of such a vast amount of data – it was decided that HDFS and Ho-Ho-Hodoop was the right technology and that a series of data visualizations and dashboards would form the SOC (Santa Operation Centre), broadcast on large screens around the workshop, across the North Pole, and delivered to elves on their mobile as they ride atop their Christmas drones delivering parcels.


The longer term goal of the big data initiative is to build out predictive analytics and machine learning and to launch a Christmas PARTY (Predictive Analytics Reporting and Trending at Yuletide) extension to CRAP. By taking in as much data as possible, the goal would be to predict the most popular gifts, refine delivery routes, optimize engineering and pre-emptively order the right toys and components ahead of time. This would also be used to deliver the Augmented Sleigh Service which would provide real time route information to the HUD on Father Christmas’ vehicle of choice.

The initial pilot of PARTY has already identified a couple of gaps and future opportunities for Father Christmas. These include a mobile Christmas present app where children and parents can submit their present lists from a phone or tablet. Also, a key trend picked up from the social media analysis in the CRAP platform was that 3D printing is gathering speed and Father Christmas has identified this as a potential new idea for creating mass personalized and customizable gifts as part of the 2020 vision.

It was a really interesting visit to the North Pole and fascinating to see how this new technology is changing an organization that has existed for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. As I left I asked Father Christmas about how he dealt with the pressure every year. His reply was telling:

“It snow joke, when you see how some retailers work it can lead to some low elf esteem around the organization. We’re trying to do things differently here and we can’t just Dasher around at the last minute hoping it will all be OK. There isn’t a Claus in a contract somewhere that states that we have deliver X,Y or Z. This job is a gift and we are investing in this technology for the children. There are Noel limits and we hope this will present a new way for us to keep the spirit of Christmas intact. I’m pretty sure this will help us stay at the top of the tree?”


The binary Christmas tree says “Happy Christmas from Splunk”.

Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I’m so sorry for the awful jokes.