Qualcomm spins off Gimbal beacon technology into a separate company

Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) is spinning off the unit that houses its Gimbal geolocation beacon technology into a separate company just a few months after it started selling the beacons commercially. The technology behind Gimbal is both a competitor to Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iBeacon technology but also compatible with it.

The chipset giant said that a group of third-party investors have established Qualcomm Retail Solutions, an existing subsidiary of Qualcomm, as an independent, standalone company. The third-party investors will collectively have a controlling interest in the business, but Qualcomm will remain a "substantial" investor. The QRS unit will be renamed "Gimbal, Inc."

The investor group is of a mix of venture capital, strategic and individual investors, Qualcomm said, including the i-Hatch LBS Fund, which includes strategic corporate investors such as Zebra Technologies and AEG. It's unclear how large Qualcomm's investment will continue to be or how large the QRS business is; a Qualcomm spokeswoman declined to comment.

"Enabling proximal, contextually relevant experiences is an important element of our vision to bridge the digital and physical worlds across retailing, advertising, social networking and other use cases, and Gimbal, Inc. is well positioned to continue to drive industry leadership," said Qualcomm President Derek Aberle. "Qualcomm often serves as a catalyst for creating businesses and technology that enable new and unique user experiences. We look forward to seeing the Gimbal platform continue to flourish and drive the vision we have created--now as an independent entity."

In December, Qualcomm announced the commercial release of its Gimbal-brand proximity beacons through QRS. The Gimbal beacons--which employ low-energy Bluetooth Smart technology--are available in two models and are accurate down to one foot whether indoors or outdoors.

Qualcomm's Gimbal context-aware platform currently supports Apple's iOS platform and will support Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android in the near future. Gimbal offers support for geofencing and proximity beacons, and companies that deploy the Gimbal platform can manage Gimbal beacons using Gimbal Manager.

Source: Qualcomm

Eventbase Technologies, a Canadian company that used Gimbal to create a series of secure ad-hoc networks for interactive sessions at the recent South By Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, said in March it also intends to use the technology at future events. The beacon technology enabled real-time indoor mapping and data-gathering during SXSW, Eventbase said. "This wasn't possible before Gimbal. GPS wasn't precise enough," Jeff Sinclair, co-founder of Eventbase, said in March.

Retailers are especially interested in beacons like Gimbal because they can be used to track in-store customers, helping retailers deliver relevant, personalized content to customer devices to drive more sales. Beacons can also enable in-store analytics, indoor navigation and contactless payments.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Reuters article
- see this GigaOM article

Related Articles:
Qualcomm's Gimbal proximity technology proving its value in ad-hoc networks
Apple's iBeacon sensor technology gets another vote of confidence for use in location-based services
Apple iBeacon vs. NFC: Where location-based apps are headed
Qualcomm, Estimote targeting the micro-location market