Want to know what time Santa will be touching down Christmas Eve to fill your stockings and drink the glass of milk you've left him?
Google Inc. is teaming up with Norad, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, to help you make your holiday visit calculations this year. Google announced Tuesday afternoon that children — and even all the big kids out there — will be able to track St. Nick's journey around the world using Google Maps and Google Earth .
"The partnership between Google and Norad to bring the Norad Tracks Santa Program to children around the world has been a perfect fit," said Stacia Reddish, a Norad Tracks Santa program manager. "Google has the server power needed for the program, and the fabulous people required in the mapping arena to ensure children know where Santa will be as he makes his trek around the globe."
While this isn't the first time that Google has helped people track Santa's big trip, this is the first year that they can follow him via their mobile phones with Google Maps for Mobile, and using Twitter by adding @noradsanta.
"I always thought Norad's Santa Tracker was a great holiday tradition, but I felt like it could have been even better if people could visualize exactly where Santa was on Christmas Eve," wrote Brian McClendon, an engineering director at Google in a blog post. "We're hoping this version of the tracker will be the best yet. In addition to our "Santa Cam" footage, geo-located photos from Panoramio http://www.panoramio.com/ will be viewable in Google Maps for each of Santa's stops that don't include video."
The tracking begins at 6 a.m. EST on Christmas Eve. Google noted that a Google Map with Santa's current location will appear at this Web address www.noradsanta.org and will be updated as his journey progresses. And people can track Santa in 3D in Google Earth by downloading a special Norad Tracks Santa KML at this web site. Google added that they will have hi-resolution Santa Cam videos of the jolly man flying by different locations around the world.
McClendon wrote in his blog that last year Google became NORAD's official Santa Tracking technology partner and hosted www.santa.org. "The heavy traffic — several millions of users — put Google's infrastructure to the test, but with some heroic work by our system reliability engineers, the Santa Tracker worked continuously," he wrote, adding that they have upgraded their server capacity for this year. "We're hoping this version of the tracker will be the best yet."
Norad has been tracking Santa since 1958 and has been tracking him via the Web since 1998.