AWS Public Sector Blog

Category: Customer Solutions

On the night before Christmas, children around the world wonder when Santa is coming to town. For the 65th consecutive year, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will put its world-class technology to work to keep an eye on Santa’s whereabouts. Beginning at 6:00 AM EST on December 24, families can check on Santa’s location by calling the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723). In a typical year, nearly 1,500 volunteers gather at the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, where they receive over 150,000 calls from children around the world. However, to keep volunteers safe during the pandemic, NORAD won’t be able to host as many phone operators in-person this year. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is supporting NORAD by helping their volunteers answer as many calls as possible through Amazon Connect, an omnichannel cloud contact center service. By transferring calls through Amazon Connect, NORAD staff and representatives will be able to answer calls from their homes or offices, supporting those on site at the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center. All they need is an internet connection and a headset to take calls through Amazon Connect. Here’s how it will work: • When families call the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center, their call will be directed to volunteers at Peterson Air Force Base, who will answer as many calls as possible. • If a volunteer is not able to answer the call, it will be routed to a cell phone bank hosted by Verizon, where volunteers will also be able to answer calls. • If volunteers at Peterson Air Force Base and the Verizon phone bank aren’t able to answer a call, it will be routed through Amazon Connect to volunteers who are answering calls from their homes or offices. • If there are no volunteers available, families will receive a recorded message that is updated regularly with Santa’s current location. “The NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center is an integral part of our program, and we are excited to expand our call center capabilities with this technology to keep our volunteers safe while still allowing them to answer calls,” said Preston Schlachter, public affairs officer for NORAD. “We appreciate everything AWS and our incredible team of corporate partners is doing to keep the magic alive this year.” “During the pandemic, many organizations have had to adjust how they operate call centers—Santa’s helpers at NORAD included,” said Dave Levy, AWS vice president for U.S. government, nonprofit, and healthcare businesses. “Amazon Connect allows customers like NORAD to limit the number of people answering calls in-person, offer operators more flexibility in where they work, and scale contact centers to answer more calls during times of peak demand. And no evening sees more demand for Santa’s whereabouts than Christmas Eve.” For more information, families can visit the NORAD Tracks Santa website at www.noradsanta.org. Additionally, Amazon is working with NORAD to make sure Alexa is up to date on Santa’s whereabouts through the NORAD Tracks Santa skill for Amazon Alexa. Enable this skill and request: “Ask NORAD Tracks Santa: where's Santa?” To all of the kids calling in—from one to 92—wishing a Merry Christmas from the AWS team to you.

NORAD keeps an eye on Santa with help from Amazon Connect

On the night before Christmas, children around the world wonder when Santa is coming to town. For the 65th consecutive year, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will put its world-class technology to work to keep an eye on Santa’s whereabouts. Beginning at 6:00 AM EST on December 24, families can check on Santa’s location by calling the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723). AWS is supporting NORAD by helping their volunteers answer as many calls as possible through Amazon Connect, an omnichannel cloud contact center service. By transferring calls through Amazon Connect, NORAD staff and representatives will be able to answer calls from their homes or offices, supporting those on site at the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center.

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KhalifaSat Image Cali Wildfires 2020

Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre uses AWS Ground Station to support UAE and global industry development

When wildfires broke out across northern and central California in August, a remote-sensing Earth observation satellite watched 381 miles (613 kilometers) above the planet’s surface. Built entirely in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), KhalifaSat captured imagery that could help governmental agencies and first responders monitor and assess the impact of the destructive blazes. To help KhalifaSat maintain continual coverage, MBRSC uses cloud services from AWS including AWS Ground Station.

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woman taking test on computer

Using the cloud to support remote proctoring and assessment

Around the world, exams are administered to help students and adults further their education and advance their careers. In the US, approximately eight million high school students took a single standardized college entrance exam in 2019. As the pandemic shifted life to virtual work and learning, it also interrupted high stakes exams typically administered in person. For years, EdTechs like ExamSoft, Sumadi (part of Laureate Education), and ProctorFree have been developing remote proctoring and digital assessment solutions using the cloud.

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space galaxy stars

Mysteries of the universe: Training neural networks to estimate parameters of synthetic black hole images

Before the Event Horizon Telescope project released the first-ever picture of a black hole in 2019, nobody had ever seen one. Black holes are a region of space with a gravitational pull so strong that nothing—not even light—can escape them. The cloud is helping accelerate research into black holes.

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New Jersey school district turns to a VMware Cloud on AWS hybrid cloud solution to deliver learning continuity

As schools and other educational institutions turn to remote learning solutions, organizations are reconsidering traditional IT infrastructure, aligning digital solutions to current learning and teaching models, and gearing towards the industry’s new measure of success: student engagement. A hybrid approach allows schools and districts to deploy both on-site and in the cloud, allowing staff and students to take advantage of productivity and collaboration services, to provide business and learning continuity. For more than a decade, To support critical learning applications and infrastructure during natural disasters and other disruptions, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District chose to use VMware Cloud on AWS (VMC on AWS) to extend its on-premises VMware vSphere environment.

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University of York; Photo by Joel Barwick via Unsplash

Scaling to zero: Serverless is the way of the future, says University of York

Since universities typically face reliable bursts of traffic, such as on admissions day, they are not often concerned with the ability to scale infinitely—a key reason for going serverless. By doing so with AWS, the University of York now has the ability to scale down to zero, which helps the university better manage applications, reduce costs, and increase agility.

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woman with headphones working at laptop in her kitchen

Simpson College and eThink Education: Promoting institutional success through Moodle

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe in the initial months of 2020, colleges and universities saw their regular learning plans upended. In many instances, in only a week, higher education institutions reconfigured their pedagogical infrastructure for hundreds or thousands of students with widely varying requirements and learning environments. Given the circumstances and the tight timeframe, it was natural for many schools to rely on their existing learning management systems (LMS) in order to transition to fully online learning. Learn how Simpson College went several steps further, leveraging its Moodle LMS not only to provide its courses but also to fuel success for students and the institution, and set up a new way of operating beyond the pandemic.      

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birds eye view of forest evergreen trees; Photo by John O'Nolan on Unsplash

Mission: Meeting environmental sustainability goals

From renewable energy projects around the globe to reducing water usage in data centers to the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative (ASDI), improving environmental sustainability is possible with the cloud. By using the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud, organizations can achieve both their missions and their environmental sustainability goals. At AWS, we are committed to running our business in the most environmentally friendly way possible. Read on to learn from AWS experts on why it is greener in the cloud as well as from customers on how the cloud has reduced their carbon footprint, paper usage, and waste.

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One on One reach

Meeting Caribbean learners’ needs with secure, resilient platform built on AWS

As a result of COVID-19, the Jamaican Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEY) selected One on One as the country’s official virtual school to expand online learning across the country. One on One Educational Services (One on One), a Jamaica-based, an e-learning solutions provider operating across the Caribbean, meets learners’ needs with their secure, resilient learning management platform built on AWS. The platform helped 44,025 students complete their school curriculum, despite the pandemic’s classroom disruption. One on One for Classroom® reached a peak of 12,000 students in attendance on a single day and 235,520 students in attendance throughout the entire period.

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man working at desktop computer at night shadow

How to host a virtual hackathon

As education has shifted to remote delivery, traditional mechanisms for engaging students and creating practical learning opportunities have had to adapt too. One mechanism—the hackathon—is increasingly taking place virtually. Typically, hackathons are in-person technology events where teams or individuals create solutions to a specific problem or challenge in a short timeframe, often 24 hours or a weekend. Hackathons are also social learning events where peers can connect, learn from each other, seek support from technical experts, and produce a cool (even if imperfect) solution. Cloud technology tools and resources can help virtual hackathons be as successful as traditional hackathons.

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