Qualcomm only started selling Gimbal, its take on Apple’s iBeacon, in December, but just a few months later it has decided to let the Bluetooth proximity beacon fend for itself as part of a separate company. Qualcomm said Wednesday it has found third-party investors for its Gimbal business and will spin it off into an independent company called Gimbal Inc., though it will remain a “substantial” investor.
Qualcomm is probably acknowledging that its strength is in selling mobile chips to consumer device makers, not running a business that targets the retail industry. Gimbal, like iBeacon, is intended to create proximity-based networks within buildings that communicate with smartphones when they come in range. For instance, Gimbal could notify a customer of specific promotions as soon a shopper enters a particular store department, or it could automatically load up a frequent customer’s loyalty card as soon as he or she arrives at the register.
Though a relatively new technology, we’re starting to see beacons of all sorts — not just those using Apple’s technology — make their way into malls, department stores and even stadiums across the country.
Qualcomm said it expects to fully separate from Gimbal in May. It didn’t name the specific investors participating except for the i-Hatch LBS Fund, a group of corporate strategic investors that includes barcode and RFID company Zebra Technologies and sports conglomerate AEG.