Santa Claus tracking has gone digital for 2011, with many smartphone applications and web tools like a live video feed on Google Earth through Norad to track ole St. Nick on his journey from the North Pole.
Volunteer Santa trackers at NORAD have been monitoring his journeys since 1955, but this year the tracking tradition has moved to smartphones and all other things digital.
This year, NORAD has a Santa Tracker on Facebook, Twitter, and live video feed on YouTube and Google Earth. Santa's NORAD Facebook page alone had over 850,000 likes by midmorning, exceeding last year's total of 716,000, according to The Associated Press.
In addition, there is a Santa tracking app available for download through the Android Market and the iTunes App Stone for android smartphones and iPhones.
According to NORAD project manager Joyce Creech, there were over 235,000 downloads of the Santa tracking app by mid-December, which also includes Elf Toss, a game similar to Angry Birds, the AP reported.
While the tracking has hit mobile devices and the Internet, telephones are still the heart of the operation, according to Creech. She said there are more than 1,200 volunteers on hand to dispatch calls and tell children where Santa is.
Personnel at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado told the AP that on Saturday they were receiving 4,000 calls per hour beginning at 4 a.m. local time, shattering last year's record.
The phones are ringing like crazy, Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis told the AP.
Last year, NORAD volunteers said they answered 80,000 phone calls in total on Christmas Eve alone.
It's just so precious to hear the little sigh or breathing on the other end, and you realize how nervous they are, Creech said. You can tell that it really brings people joy, and especially kids.
For 2011, here are four ways to track Santa using the NORAD Santa Tracker.
Tracking Santa via mobile device is easy. Any phone that can access Google Maps can be used by searching Santa on the program (or m.google.com/maps) to see St. Nick's most recent location.Also, NORAD offers an official free Santa tracking app by VisionBox, which comes with Elf Toss.
2. Social Media
There are many Web sites to track Santa online. Santa's latest videos can be found on NoradSanta.org and the NORAD Tracks Santa page on YouTube.
Children can call Santa's Google Voice number for free at 1-855-34-SANTA (72682) and leave a voicemail for St. Nick.You can also visit SendACallFromSanta.com to send a personalized holiday greeting from Santa to any phone number in North America.