As the task of delivering toys to all the world's good girls and boys has grown in size over decades of population growth, Santa has increasingly come to rely on the latest electronics to keep his epic logistics operation on track.
Of course, none of us know the exact numbers, schedule or locations for sure, but academics put the number of likely deliveries at 1.7 billion, covering some 500 million miles within 24 hours - numbers that Amazon can only dream of. So, how does he do it and what tech is he using?
Warehousing and Pick and Pack Operation
It won't surprise you to know that, aside from an army of elves, even Santa makes use of robotic technologies to maximise efficiency. Santa's smart warehouse in the North Pole is packed with handheld RF terminals, smart shuttle cars, shuttle car elevators, smart guide systems, hopper elevators, sack allocation management and AI systems for sleigh capacity modelling. Our Ultra-Wideband (UWB) transceivers from Spark Microelectronics, significantly enhance both 'Elf and Safety' and pick-and-pack precision in Santa's smart warehouse. By enabling accurate, real-time location tracking, UWB technology helps prevent accidents between elves and fast moving robotic arms, while simultaneously optimising the precision of robotic pick-and-pack operations. They establish virtual safety zones, trigger instant proximity alerts, and raise situational awareness in the world's busiest warehouse.
The toy shuttle cars also make use of the amazing magic properties of another of Santa's favourites, Premo. Their on-board RF antenna follow the right magnetic tracks around the warehouse and ensure every toy is handled by the appropriate Elf operative and allocated to the right child before being wrapped and labelled.
Another clever feature in such a busy workhouse is the use of Premo's 3D coil technology to maximise Elf and Safety in such a busy workplace. Premo's 3DC11P transponder tag is worn by the Elves as they go about their business. When the elf passes close enough to be detected by the Premo Antenna, the KGEA-AFC-B-0240J, the toy shuttle automatically stops and prevents a nasty workplace accident. The main reason Santa uses Premo is their devices deliver some of the highest sensitivities in the market, all within a tiny package - handy when you're attaching them to an Elf! They also operate in a wide range of temperatures - even as low as -40ºC so they can work in whatever conditions the North Pole might throw at it.
Navigation - courtest of SIMCom's 66MD
If you're visiting around 1.7 billion homes of an evening, you know, like you do, you're going to need a pretty damn robust SatNav. Understandably, given such unique requirements, Santa has developed his own proprietary system - the SantNav (see what he did there?) based on SIMCom's SIM66MD module. Download the datasheet below:
Why did Santa's Engineering Elfs recommend the SIM66MD? Apart from being a high performance, reliable GNSS module it can acquire and track any mix of multiple satellite signals for high sensitivity and accuracy with proven AlwaysLocate™ technology. Perhaps most importantly of all, it provides all these features (and more) with very low energy consumption, which is essential when your transport is running on Reindeer power. If you want help to decide on your GNSS module, check out our handy guide here.
The Sleigh Ride: aXiom touch and RP2040
If you're covering 500k miles of an evening, facing all weathers and temperatures, whilst travelling at a beard strainingly fast velocity, you're not only going to need a very comfy seat, you're going to need some pretty sophisticated on-sleigh electronics to make the drive more pleasurable. Like the rest of humanity and our earth-bound vehicles, the tech embedded in Santa's sleigh is every bit as cutting edge as the latest production line EV.
The first must-have is an across-the-dash (or should that be Dasher Ho! Ho! Ho!) display screen. But not just any old display screen, oh no. If you're going to be operating any form of SantNav or choosing your in-flight entertainment in sub-zero temperatures, with driving sleet or rain, there really is only one form of technology that will suffice: a TouchNetix screen powered by their Axiom chip. Their class-leading touch-sensing algorithms provide an unbelievable Signal to Noise ratio which allows Santa to wear some serious thermal gloves and still manage to change the on-sleigh sounds from Cliff Richard to Michael Bublé with ease. The real magic of the Axiom chip however lies in the ability to do gestures, sense pressure and provide haptic feedback, so the big guy has full control at his finger tips.
Like any modern vehicular transport, at the heart of the sleigh is a microcontroller which manages the information obtained from sensors around the sleigh to keep the thing safe and moving in a satisfactory manner. We're accustomed to fossil fuels, or more recently batteries which drive the power train but in this instance we have what Santa loves to refer to as his RMS - the Reindeer Management System. Not only that, but the clever electronics behind this micro-marvel shares the name of one of his favourite fruits - its the Raspberry Pi RP2040.
Using a clever combination of on-reindeer sensors and the Raspberry Pi's 30 GPIOs (General Programmable Input / Outputs), as well as built in Analogue to Digital converters, means the sleigh's microcontroller can take multiple pieces of information from each of the 9 reindeer, before putting any strain on the main CPU. Think of it as Formula 1 level telemetrics but applied to a reindeer. So, the RP2040 can quickly determine if the performance of any one of the reindeer is dipping before initiating an urgent in-air refuelling; which basically means automatically serving up a carrot or two to the dwindling deer.
Poetry in Motion: Epson IMUs enhance ride and performance
However much they try, reindeer powered vehicles tend to deliver a fairly bumpy ride. Fortunately our friends at EPSON have a solution. Equally capable on Microsatellites or Unmanned Autonomous vehicles, the M-G366 Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) significantly enhances Santa's sleigh's performance and stability during flight by delivering high precision measurement of the rate of rotation and acceleration. This allows for real-time adjustments in response to weather, reindeer fatigue and the reducing payload. THe M-G366 also aids in efficient navigation, ensuring the sleigh stays on course while managing the weight distribution of the considerable payload. Additionally, it enhances safety by continuously monitoring flight dynamics, which can be seamlessly integrated with the RP2040 for a comprehensive flight management solution, making Santa's journey faster, safer, and more efficient.
Download the M-G366 Data Sheet
Powering the Sleigh: Sustainable and Efficient Energy Solutions
Gone are the days of relying solely on reindeer power. The modern sleigh harnesses eco-friendly energy sources. We're talking about advanced solar panels seamlessly integrated into the sleigh’s design, charging high-capacity, solid-state Lithium batteries. These batteries are not only lighter but also offer extended life and faster charging, ensuring that Santa never runs out of power while reindeers re-fuel mid-flight. Using advanced PMIC and BMS solutions from Qorvo. These energy management marvels ensure that Santa extracts the maximum juice out of his batteries, whilst preserving their lifetime for many Christmas Eve's to come.
Electronics + Magic, belief and Imagination
Of course, we can't reveal all Santa's secrets, because a) we don't know them and b) because they're secret. But suffice to say that there are some things that are only possible with magic, belief and imagination. Frankly we don't know how he manages to slow down time long enough to complete his schedule - that's something we haven't quite cracked yet. All we can say is that the electronics mentioned in this post is currently available and can do (pretty much) the jobs described. So if you can see any similar applications in your set up - why not get in touch with Ineltek and see if we can add a little magic to your next project?