Beacon — a wireless sensor that transmits information to nearby smartphones — may be on its way to becoming a household word. At the least, the micro-location technology is in the news frequently these days.

All Things D is reporting that Estimote, a Y Combinator graduate that makes beacons, has garnered a $3.1 million seed round from a list of venture firms and angel investors that includes Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors. Estimote has also hired former GroupMe business-development boss Steve Cheney to open its New York office and run business operations.

And Qualcomm Retail Solutions Inc. has announced that its Gimbal proximity beacons are commercially available as part of its Gimbal context-aware, proximity platform. Gimbal beacons enable retailers to do in-store mobile marketing, and the company said they are accurate down to one foot and work indoors and outdoors.

The Gimbal beacons come in two models and are touted as a lower-cost alternative to Apple's iBeacon technology. Depending on volume, the company said, Series 10 beacons (28mm x 40mm x 5.6mm) may cost $5 each, while Series 20 beacons (95mm x 102mm x 24mm) may be available for as little as $10 each. The overall Gimbal platform supports iOS and Android, while the new proximity beacons support iOS currently with Android to follow.

"With the availability of Gimbal proximity beacons, we are empowering brands to take mobile engagement with their customers to a whole new level through micro-location," Rocco Fabiano, president of Qualcomm Retail Solutions, said in a news release.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Mark Modz
    As I understand it from a developers standpoint, Estimote's beacons are out there--I have seen people programming for them and using them. They are also accurate to under two inches and have a lot more apps and capabilities than just couponing (payments to Big Data). No one outside of Qualcomm has ever seen their product. Its seems like smoke and mirrors from an ageing, rapidly irrelevant wireless giant.
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