IoT at the scale of Santa
If you want to see the future of IoT look to the North Pole. Santa has always been an early adopter and disseminator of technology, and his delivery system has been a bellwether for which consumer IT trends will be successful.
According to Don Sheppard of IT World Canada, Santa Clause “operates on a scale that’s bigger than the internet.” The organization is “a complex, multi-national, large scale business for which the IT capacity requirements are highly variable.”
In a pre-Christmas article last year, Sheppard argued that Internet of Things (IoT) adoption is Santa’s next logical step. Santa, claims Sheppard, could distribute connected toys and track their popularity, use, and durability. Santa can also deliver virtual presents like eBooks, streaming television services, or cloud-based apps.
Virtual gifts require Santa to have a lot of bandwidth. Let’s say he gives each of the 800,000 children in Alberta an eBook. Many of those eBooks would be text only, so they would be no more than 5 megabytes (MB) each. Picture books or graphic novels, though, could be as large as 100 MB. At an average of, say, 20 MB per child, Santa would need to move 16 Terabytes of data to deliver eBooks to each child in Alberta. It will take an enterprise-grade network to get the job done where limitless fibre optic internet could seamlessly support this as well as other campaigns.
The IoT for North Pole Operations
Not all children are going to want virtual gifts, so it’s good that the IoT offers him a few options for streamlining his delivery system. He could deploy drones, though Sheppard speculates that drones may have trouble getting inside people’s homes.
Sheppard recommends that Santa transitions to an autonomous sleigh for deliveries. Or, at the very least, he should invest in fleet management solutions to improve sleigh maintenance and efficiency.
Sheppard also recommends that Santa virtualize his contact with children with live video streaming. He could also provide the girls and boys with VR headsets that will allow them to visit the North Pole. He also suggests that Santa use sophisticated CRM tools to keep track of who’s naughty and who's nice.
Upgrades at the North Pole
It seems Santa was listening; he rebranded the company as North Pole Inc. (NPI) and invited Gartner to help develop a strategy to modernize the organization’s highly customized systems portfolio. This portfolio includes order management, inventory management, and quality assurance systems for toys; communications tools; logistics systems; and workforce management systems.
To give you an idea of the scale, Gartner reports that Santa’s Content System for Relations, Inbound Gift Request and Letters (CRINGLE) processes a total of 19.5 million gift requests via letter, email, and phone call. The Scheduling, Logistics and Expedited Distribution System (SLEDS) takes care of half a million appearance requests and the maintenance of half a million sleighs running from 7700 gift express hubs that handle night-of-delivery (NOD) routing.
While the quality of NPI’s data and information governance is unparalleled, the organization was lagging behind others in the distribution industry. Gartner has recommended a logical data warehouse architecture to address this. This structure will help NPI access disparate data sets quickly so they can make accurate delivery decisions.
NPI’s predictive analytics help select toys based on behavior modelling and previous year gift lists. Gartner recommended enhancements to the system that included factors such as sibling response.
NPI is eager to implement a long-term cloud strategy, but the 200 Terabytes of data, high-level security requirements, and spotty connectivity presents a major challenge. Gartner has recommended that, for now, NPI should use the hosted cloud solutions only for individual gift hubs.
Axia could provide the Western Canada gift hub located in northern Alberta with a dedicated symmetrical fibre optic network. The hub would have symmetrical download and upload speeds of 10 Gbps (Gigabytes per second), which would serve the hub well for many years to come.
The IoT is not just for Santa. Businesses everywhere can leverage IoT and Big Data to create their own magic in the form of predictive analytics that leads to business intelligence putting them ahead of the pack.