The Christmas season that usually kicks off with Black Friday shopping madness is one of the top concerns for fleet managers. The line between sales success and disaster can by mighty thin and a company can easily stray onto the wrong side if adequate planning and resources have not been put in place. Apart from increased sales due to online shopping, there is an obvious boom in the need for transport and logistic services for any service provider or product manufacturer. Just think about how many extra workers retailers and supermarkets require this time of year, or, to put it simply, just consider who is going to deliver your Christmas tree, for example?
Businesses often have high expectations in terms of keeping their shelves fully stocked over the Christmas period to satisfy seasonal consumer demand, and depend on fast, reliable ground transportation: investing in advanced tracking systems can be the solution for those experiencing a disproportionate amount of business.
But if we think about Santa Claus, when all’s said and done, isn’t he perhaps the first fleet manager?
What might sound like a slightly off-the-wall statement to most of us actually became the subject of an interesting book entitled The Physics of Christmas by Roger Highfield (then editor of the New Scientist) about which the BBC published an article some time ago. Assuming that Santa Claus exists, and that the population of children is estimated (at least at the time the book was written) to be around two billion, how can sweet old Santa physically complete such a phenomenal undertaking?
It is estimated by Highfield that Santa would have to make roughly 850 million stops. He would be able to buy himself another precious 24 hours if he were to actually complete these stops travelling in an opposite direction to the rotation of the earth. Nethertheless, this is not a very long deadline considering the magnitude of the task, so he’d have to get quite a move on.
Highfield calculates that Santa would need to be travelling at 6,000 times the speed of sound, or, 300,000 kilometres per second—light speed, in other words—in order meet his targets in time, something that is clearly beyond current technology.
For folk who still believe in Santa Clause, there is, however, some quite complicated scientific explanations as to why no-one ever sees him delivering the presents. The pool of experts interviewed by the BBC make a series of assumptions as to how Santa could physically perform such an undertaking without being spotted according to the principles of quantum mechanics, relativity, nanostructures and space, but also, last but not least, as the potential fleet manager of a colossal logistical operation.
The head of public relations for UPS, the delivery firm, at the time of the BBC article, Jim Daniell, explained how Santa Claus could be seen as a real fleet manager, making use of the most advanced technology of the era and asking his elves for help. Tracking and tracing, in the words of Daniell, would be the preferred technological method for the task. He then imagines Santa operating a small but powerful computer with GPS capabilities and which keeps tabs on deliveries and communicates with his HQ up in the North Pole.
Santa Claus could take advantage of real time data transmission; he could receive information about children who were still awake and use this information and his geographical position to achieve his objective—to deliver as many presents as possible in the shortest time without being seen.
We may never know how a real Santa could technically pull off such a feat year after year, but we do support this last hypothesis, and we tried to imagine how it might look in practice with this video: