NORAD Tracks Santa App


Mobile Gov Experiences are agency stories about creating anytime, anywhere, any device government services and info. This entry is a story shared by NORAD._

The NORAD Tracks Santa apps provide a countdown to Santa’s Christmas Eve flight, interactive games and live tracking of Santa’s progress on December 24th.

Why We Did It

The NORAD Tracks Santa program began in 1955 by accident , and the program has evolved into a large volunteer effort that includes military and civilian personnel, as well as national and local companies and organizations. In 2011, a local Colorado Springs development firm, Visionbox, approached NORAD and offered to create NORAD Tracks Santa mobile apps for Santa’s 2011 trip. This was a win-win situation and helped NORAD to evolve technologically and meet the needs of a new generation of NORAD Tracks Santa fans.

What We Did

Visionbox created the first NORAD Tracks Santa apps for both the Android and iOS platforms in 2011. The original apps tracked Santa’s flight and included the games “Elf Toss” (iOS) and “Thin Ice” (Android.) For 2012, Visionbox added the “Thin Ice” game to iOS, added additional levels to the Android games, and in collaboration with iLink, they also created a new mobile app for the Windows Phone. iLink-systems helped NORAD evolve further through the creation of an app for the Windows 8 platform, which includes a number of features available on the site, games, and will allow fans to Track Santa with NORAD on Dec. 24th.

How It Worked

The initial app releases in 2011 were a huge success, with over 1.4 million total combined downloads during the month of December 2011. To date this year (as of December 12, 2012), the NORAD Tracks Santa apps have achieved an additional combined total of 65,000 downloads, and have been updated 250,000 times across the Android and iOS platforms.

What We Learned

Working across the four platforms we found that

  • user feedback helps us improve our product
  • we were able to reduce the size of the Android app for this year so that is takes less space
  • there are variations in turn around time for updates which is critical for an app that is only available during the month of December

What’s Next

We’ll start planning for Santa’s 2013 trip on December 26th, and by July or August, our tech partners will really begin to ramp up for the next version of the apps.


NORAD Tracks Santa nnc (dot) pa (dot) nts (dot) omb (at) northcom (dot) mil