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Santa-tracking systems out of sync

UPI News Service, 12/25/2012 

Rival Santa-tracking services offered by NORAD and Google repeatedly pinpointed the jolly elf in two different places at once throughout Christmas Eve.

Longtime Santa-tracker NORAD, also known as the North American Aerospace Defense Command, parted ways with five-year partner Google this year and teamed up with Microsoft instead, NBC reported.

Google decided to offer its own Santa-tracker, which often showed Santa in a different location than NORAD's, delivering presents at a dramatically different rate. At one point in the night, NORAD reported Santa being in Rome, having delivered more than 3 billion presents, while Google pinpointed him in Agadez, Niger, with less than 1 billion gifts delivered.

Danny Sullivan, from Search Engine Land, has been watching the discrepancy in this year's Santa-tracking software.

"NORAD explains that it uses everything from radar to jets to track Santa. Google doesn't explain its technology, but I suspect it tries to triangulate Santa using his cellphone signal or use of WiFi hotspots," Sullivan said. "As for why NORAD shows Father Christmas delivering three times the number of gifts that Google is listing, perhaps NORAD's radars can better pinpoint presents while Google might be doing estimating. Meanwhile, both services sometimes show presents being delivered over oceans! And why is NORAD showing Santa arriving in some places at 9 p.m. rather than midnight, as has been the case in the past?"

NORAD also operates a Santa-tracking hotline, allowing children to call and find out where Santa is. U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, who is spending Christmas with her family in Hawaii, helped answer calls from children across the United States this year, as she has in the past, the White House said in a release.

"Well, do you see that he was last spotted in Chad? And now he's headed for Libya right now. And they can track his sleigh. He's moving pretty fast. That's pretty exciting, isn't it?" Obama said to Jake, Ryan and Kyle Schaack from Rocklin, Calif.

"He's going like 100 miles an hour," Kyle responded. "Way more than that, Kyle," his brother remarked.

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