Qualcomm Gimbal: New Beacons Set the Bar for Bluetooth LE

The world of beacons just got a lot more interesting with the launch of Gimbal beacons by Qualcomm. Not only are the beacons cheap but they come with a robust back-end system, software developer kit, and all the weight of the Qualcomm brand.

While start-ups like Estimote have grabbed most of the headlines in the early days of beacons, they’ve yet to launch their full back-end systems.

Now along comes Qualcomm whose Gimbal beacons come in two sizes and at a nearly negligible price of $5 when ordered in bulk.

Two Beacon Types

The Series 10 beacon “has a small (28mmx40mmx5.6mm), lightweight, and sleek design with a loop on one side to allow installation flexibility.” It’s about the size of a dime and is recommended for short ‘alive times’:

“The battery life under typical conditions is about 3 months when transmitting at almost twice per second. This makes it suitable for applications looking to actively sight beacons while running in the foreground. Gimbal will send a notification when a battery is running low. In addition to its location features and long battery life, this small beacon also has a temperature sensing feature via a thermistor sensor.”

The Series 20 beacon, on the other hand, is the more robust of the two and comes in at the size of a playing card:

“The Series 20 beacon has a configurable omni-directional or directional antenna. It uses four standard AA alkaline batteries, all of which are replaceable while the unit remains mounted. The battery life is approximately 1 year, but this unit has the added benefit of transmitting at 10x per second which affords applications the ability to monitor for it while in the background while still providing a responsive customer experience.”

It’s What’s Behind the Beacon That Matters

But a beacon is just a transmitter without an app to receive the data, and an app is just an app without a back-end to manage it.

Qualcomm has jumped to the front of the line in providing a fully integrated beacon solution by launching a robust software development kit (including Android and iOS support), a back-end dashboard, and other developer tools.

Qualcomm Gimbal Beacons Come with Robust Dashboard
Qualcomm Gimbal Beacons Come with Robust Dashboard

While we haven’t tested the back-end system, its features are promising: full geofencing capabilities (not dissimilar I think to Radius Network’s Proximity Kit), analytics, communication tools and application management.

One of the appealing features of the Gimbal system is how it handles management of beacon events: by allowing developers to set up rules on their back-end system, you can set entry and exit rules for beacon proximity. They’ve also thought beyond beacons – and have built in the capacity to manage hubs, receivers and transmitters in the same dashboard.

The Game Has Been Elevated

With the Qualcomm launch there’s clearly a new game in town. While GigaOm seems to confuse iBeacon with beacons, it’s not Apple that should be afraid of Gimbal.

Instead, it’s the companies making beacons that will have to elevate their game – and fast. Estimote, in particular, will need to move past shipping beacons and start shipping the back-end management tools or it will find itself left behind in the fast-moving world of Bluetooth LE.

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