Qualcomm announces iBeacon competitor, beaming info when stepping foot in a store

Qualcomm has taken the wraps off Qualcomm Gimbal, a new proximity beacon that will beam ads, coupons, etc, from the moment a customer sets foot in a retail store. Apple first released a similar technology in September when it included iBeacons within iOS 7 - but now Qualcomm wants to jump on board too. 

Each Gimbal beams "personalised high-value content" to smartphones over Bluetooth Smart. Essentially like iBeacon, brands can use the Gimbal platform to send customised communications the very moment a customer walks into a certain geofenced area (Gimbal triggers the message to pop-up on a smartphone).

The Gimbal context aware platform supports iOS, with planned support for Android. Retailers, concert halls, and other venues will be able to purchase two versions of the Gimbal: the Series 20 (95mm x 102mm x 24mm), and the Series 10 (28mm x 40mm x 5.6mm). Companies that deploy the Gimbal platform can manage Gimbal beacons using Gimbal Manager. Depending on how many a retailer purchases, Series 10 beacons are available for as little as $5 each. Series 20 beacons are available for as little as $10 each, according to Qualcomm.

Read: Apple's iBeacons explained: What it is and why it matters

Qualcomm has yet to announce any retailers to pick up the technology. Such micro location technology is already in use, as Apple announced earlier this month it will use iBeacons to push personalised notifications to customers in 254 of its US stores. 

"iBeacon was not being used to offer special deals/promotions, but instead as a tool to convey information," analyst Brian Marshall of ISI Group wrote in a note to investors after trying iBeacons. "We were hoping to find deal offers."
 
Qualcomm's Gimbal technology will be important for retailers who want to reach customers with Android smartphones. It sounds like users will have to install the specific retailer's app. It's not like the promotion will pop-up on their phone without certain permissions accessed.
 
“Gimbal – with its proximity beacons that use low-energy Bluetooth Smart – is the complete package," said Rocco Fabiano, president of Qualcomm Retail Solutions. "Given the affordable pricing of the beacons, retailers and venue operators can install a network for customer engagement that is both more accurate and less expensive than other location-based systems.”