You see them everywhere these days: kids and adults—alone, in pairs, in packs, and all ages—staring at their smartphones and striding purposely toward locations that look like…well, nothing special. That is, unless you are playing the same augmented reality game they are, Pokémon GO.

Through the “magic” of the Pokémon GO app, Niantic and The Pokémon Company have used the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) to bring those lovable, imaginary Pokémon creatures into the real world. “It just goes to show what a long way we’ve come from the U.S. Air Force’s primary original goal, to help with precision targeting and to develop a standard navigation system for the U.S. military ,” says Kay Collins-Maloney, program director of Harris Corporation’s U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and GPS Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) programs. “By making GPS free to the world, the signal is not just important for national security, but also has become a vital part of almost every aspect of our lives.”

The Power That’s Inside

The Air Force’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is responsible for the daily command and control of the strategically positioned GPS satellite constellation, which orbits Earth at an altitude of 12,000 miles. Harris technology on board the GPS satellites provides precise three-dimensional position, plus time and velocity information, on a 24-hour worldwide basis. Each of these satellites constantly transmits its time and location to GPS-enabled receiving devices below, which means Pokémon GO players, or Pokémon trainers, are able to see if they are getting closer or further away from coveted creatures, like the adorable Jigglypuff.

The atomic clocks on board each GPS satellite are synchronized with all of the other atomic clocks in the constellation. Without this synchronized time, geolocation would be impossible—and you would have no idea where the Pokémon are hiding in relation to your position.

Evolving for Business

While the GPS signal is free, the receiving devices that use it are responsible for pumping $67.6 billion annually into the U.S economy each year. With apps like Pokémon GO entering the market, GPS is having even more of an impact on business. In a single week after Pokémon GO was released, Nintendo’s stock rose nearly 65 percent. And local businesses are reaping the rewards of increased exposure and traffic as Pokémon trainers use the game to navigate their local communities in search of elusive Pokémon. The venerable business publication, Forbes, reinforced the business impact with their recent article, 6 Ways To Use Pokémon Go In Your Local Marketing Campaign.

And as for the future of GPS-based games and other apps? “Just wait for GPS technology advancements,” says Kay Collins-Maloney, smiling. “With stronger capabilities, who knows what wonderful things people will come up with.”

Harris has provided navigation technology for every generation of the U.S. GPS for more than 40 years. Visit our website to learn more about Harris’ positioning, navigation, and timing technology.