Briefing

NORAD relies on tech giants for Santa Claus tracker

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The joint U.S.-Canada agency runs the monitoring operation from its Colorado headquarters, and uses 1,500 volunteers to answer emails and 140,000 phone calls annually. (The Associated Press)

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Talking point: In recent years, NORAD has integrated its tracker with popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Amazon’s AI assistant Alexa, expanding the product’s market beyond its own website. In December, the agency announced a partnership with OnStar, General Motors’ subscription-based navigation and security service. For-profit firms built with government-released open datasets are big business—the market for flight trackers was worth US$342 million last year, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com. NORAD also works with companies that are large vendors to the U.S. defence department. The website and app tracker uses maps from Bing, whose owner Microsoft won a disputed US$10-billion Pentagon cloud contract in October. Cesium provides the 3D terrain that Santa flies over; defence contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon also use its technology in visualization tools sold to armed forces and intelligence services.