Santa Claus tracking is set for a record-breaking year in 2011, as applications on smartphones are being used with North American Aerospace Defense Command data to track The Big Red One on his journey from the North Pole to all points south.
Volunteer Santa trackers at NORAD have been monitoring his journeys since 1955, but this year the tracking tradition has moved to smartphones in a big way.
This year, NORAD has updates on Santa's progress as he delivers toys to children literally everywhere: from Facebook, to Twitter, to YouTube, to Santa's Web site, to 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 line with the growing smartphone trend, Santa tracking has gone mobile more than ever: There were over 235,000 downloads of the Santa tracking app on the Android Market and iTunes App Store by mid-December, according to project manager Joyce Creech.
NORAD's Santa tracking app 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.
The NORAD Tracks Santa Web site, which you can reach via this link and track Santa's journey on the NORAD Santa Tracker 2011, has had more than 2.2 million unique visitors this year.