Apple’s iBeacons aren’t the only Bluetooth LE beacons available, but they have so far been the default option for retailers thanks to the backing of such a well-known company. Qualcomm, which makes wireless chips for Apple among many others, may be aiming to change that with its launch of its own beacons from just $5 each.

Gimbal proximity beacons, available in two models, are accurate down to one foot and work indoors and outdoors [...]

Depending on volume, Series 10 beacons [for indoor use] are available for as little as $5 each and Series 20 beacons [weatherproof version] are available for as little as $10 each.

While the move represents competition for Apple, it’s good news for iOS users … 

Qualcom’s Gimbal beacons are compatible with iOS today, with a Software Development Kit available to allow retailers to create their own iOS apps. As users, we won’t need to either know or care which company provided a store’s beacons – the service will work in exactly the same way.

Macy’s was the first large store to adopt iBeacon technology, even ahead of Apple’s planned deployment in its own retail stores. Other trials of the technology have included Major League Baseball and integration with Newsstand.

If you’re not yet up to speed with what Bluetooth LE beacons are all about, check out our iBeacon briefing here.

As with a number of Apple’s suppliers, Qualcomm is in the somewhat delicate position of being both a supplier and a competitor. The company announced its own 64-bit ARM chip shortly after describing Apple’s A7 chip as “a gimmick”, and recently launched a new smart watch – though currently only for Android devices. This uses the company’s Mirasol display: an e-ink style technology with ultra-low power usage to provide an always-on color display.

Engadget reports that the company built the watch “to show what’s possible” with the display.

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13 Responses to “Qualcomm gets in on Bluetooth beacon action with iBeacon competitor”

  1. rogifan says:

    Another nail in NFC’s coffin?

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  2. What is not entirely clear to me is whether or not these Qualcomm beacons are compatible with the native iOS SDK, or if they can only be used with the Qualcomm SDK…

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    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      I suspect given Qualcomm’s silence on that, only the Qualcomm one, but for the end user (or perhaps I should say, the target …) the experience should be identical.

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      • Yeah, it looks like you need to register the gimbal beacons online and manage the geofences in the gimbal portal as well. I suspect the iOS and Android SDKs actually integrate with the gimbal web services so it looks like it definitely works different from Apple’s iBeacon implementation in the iOS 7 SDK. An iBeacon is basically nothing more than a BLE device that broadcasts out some special BlueTooth headers so I wonder what the difference is with the Gimbal beacons…

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  3. One thing I like about Apple iBeacon in Apple Stores is they ask permission [opt-in] to participate, it will be interesting to see if others are as courteous in their app creation or if Apple App Store approval requires it.

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  4. Yeah – um, OK…what are Apple iBeacons exactly? You make it sound like Gimbal is competing with some “thing” that Apple produces but they’re not.

    How can Qualcomm be competing with Apple when Apple doesn’t actually make the beacons (other than phones/tablets themselves being beacons). In Apple stores, Apple uses tablets and phones as beacons, but in places like Macy’s it’s a completely different device made by a manufacturer.

    It’s confusing stuff but iBeacon is Apple’s preferred technology stack for working with apps, devices and beacons powered by Bluetooth LE.

    Qualcomm integrates with this technology stack and could, in theory, be branded as ‘iBeacon compatible’ once the spec is released.

    Therefore, the headline should read:

    “Qualcomm supports roll-out of iBeacon technology by launching technology that supports Apple’s approach to Bluetooth LE”

    Gimbals don’t compete with Apple, they actually support it. Instead, they compete with products like Estimote or Kontakt.

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  5. “Competitor” seems like the wrong word here. If iHome releases a speaker dock that supports AirPlay, they’re not really a competitor. This sounds like good news for Apple. Another sign that their Bluetooth LE/Beacon strategy is catching on.

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  6. Camille Tine says:

    What stock do I buy to take advantage of this tech?

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  7. Daniel Eagle says:

    Thanks for the article. If anyone has any issues setting up the Gimbal SDK with Android Studio I have written an article which will walk you through this since the official documentation only discusses Eclipse. http://danieleagle.com/blog/2014/10/setting-up-gimbal-sdk-in-android-studio/#solving-accuracy-problem

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