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Apple’s(s aapl) iBeacon is already tracking where you are in Apple Stores in order to present a more personalized experience. It’s not the only game in town though. Qualcomm’s Gimbal Proxmity Beacons are now available for as low as $5 in quantity, the company announced on Monday. Currently a favorite vendor for chips in smartphones, Qualcomm’s(s qcom) Gimbal represents another product to keep the company powering mobile devices, smartwatches and just about any other Internet of Things connected gadget.
There are actually two Gimbal sensors now available: The small Series 10, measuring 28 x 40 x 5.6 millimeter and the larger Series 20 that takes up a 95 x 102 x 24 millimeter footprint. Both use low-energy Bluetooth Smart technology for detailed micro-location data; accurate within a foot. The idea is that retailers can add the Gimbal sensors throughout a brick-and-mortar store to see where customers are. That data provides the opportunity for a hyper-personal shopping experinece, says Qualcomm:
“Use of the platform enables brands to increase sales and drive loyalty by delivering highly relevant communications while those consumers are physically present in their stores and venues. Brands using the Gimbal platform can send customized communications based on interest derived from geofence triggers and proximity triggers, all matched to inferred interests. “
The concept is exactly what Apple is trying to do in its stores — as is Macy’s, which has installed Apple’s iBeacon in some locations. With accurate in-store location data of customers, retailers know what section of the store potential buyers are in. It can then tailor ads, product information, even limited in-store product specials, to the most likely buyers of such products.
The use of Bluetooth makes far more sense than other alternatives: NFC generally requires a customer action, such as tapping a phone to a tag, while GPS is pure overkill and not likely as accurate in some indoor locations. Before Bluetooth Smart, the Bluetooth wireless technology simply lacked either the range or used too much power to effectively be a detailed proximity location tool.
Qualcomm’s Gimbal product, which combines “physical location, activity, time and personal interests” currently supports iOS devices for now but the company says Android support is planned. This past January, I got a demo of how Gimbal can be used in other unique ways, such as the launch of a new Star Trek movie. Qualcomm can’t beam you up just yet, but it can provide computers with your exact location.