Qualcomm launches Gimbal, its own $5 iBeacons

iBeacons Apple Store app (iPhone screenshot 002)

iBeacons, an Apple indoor positioning system based on Low Energy Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE) wireless technology packed inside tiny transmitters, seems to be picking up steam as of recently. Although Apple never conceived iBeacons technology to be platform-dependent, current installations are limited to sending push notifications right to the Lock screen of nearby iPhone, iPod touch or iPad devices.

These alerts use a combination of physical location, activity, time and personal interests and typically include various marketing messages, such as store discounts, freebies and so forth.

Surprisingly enough, Apple’s supplier Qualcomm has now entered the game with the Gimbal, its own iBeacons-compatible platform which promises to bring location sensing to a micro-location level at an affordable price…

Launched through its subsidiary called Qualcomm Retail Solutions, the Gimbal platform is accurate down to one foot and works both indoors and outdoors via low-energy Bluetooth Smart profile, also known as Bluetooth 4.0.

According to a media release, these proximity beacons support iOS today, with planned support for Android coming at a later stage.

Qualcomm provides the pervasive transmitters in two sizes: the larger 95mm x 102mm x 24mm and the tinier 28mm x 40mm x 5.6mm. Depending on the use cases, the smaller Series 10 beacons have a battery life of “many months or up to a year”, with the larger Series 20 beacons listed as having a battery life of 1-3 years.

Check out Qualcomm’s promo clip.

Depending on volume, Series 10 beacons are available for as little as $5 each and Series 20 ones cost as little as $10 each. As part of a time-limited promotion valid through December 31, Qualcomm is currently waiving the license price of a set of three proximity beacons for U.S.-based developers, each including a single CR2032 battery.

The low price ensures that everyone, from small merchants to big name retailers, can afford to deploy these transmitters in order to improve their shopping experiences.

Brands using the Gimbal platform can send customized communications based on interest derived from geofence triggers and proximity triggers, all matched to inferred interests. These brands can then further refine their offerings via analytics provided by the Gimbal platform.

To address user privacy requirements, the Gimbal platform has at its core user-controlled privacy settings and focuses on the secure transmission of all information

Qualcomm is also providing a software development kit (SDK) for iOS and Android and a software package called Gimbal Manager, which is basically a set of APIs and a web-based tool allowing clients to deploy the Gimbal platform and manage their beacons.

Qualcomm’s iBeacons have an effective range of 0-50 meters, though the chip maker notes that proximity features are available on iOS only.

More information is available at the official Gimbal website.

I’m liking this announcement a lot.

Qualcomm Gimbal (teaser 002)

iBeacons tech wants to be platform-agnostic.

With the bulk of processing carried out on the server end, iBeacons simply needs to account for the differences in how platforms like iOS and Android handle the ubiquitous notification alerts and location, which vastly simplifies large-scale deployments.

Macy’s was the first big name retailer to implement iBeacons technology, followed by Major League Baseball and Apple Stores. As we told you yesterday, Our own Sebastien Page went to the Carlsbad Apple Store to test Apple’s implementation of iBeacons.

He found that the technology hasn’t lived up to Apple’s standards, yet.

Specifically, Sebastien has experienced multiple welcome notifications upon entering and leaving the store, with some alerts not showing or showing randomly within Apple’s free Apple Store shopping app.

A technology like this wants to be as pervasive as humanly possible and with iOS and now Android developers being provided the tools to support iBeacon features in their own apps, the technology should take off sooner than later.

Are you excited about iBeacons?