Gimbal Wants to Turn Vending Machines, Jukeboxes and Other Devices Into Beacons

The San Diego-based beacon manufacturer is beginning to move toward licensing its firmware and cloud-based services to companies that could benefit by connecting more directly with their customers.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jun 05, 2015

Bluetooth beacon provider Gimbal announced this week that it is making its beacon firmware widely available, enabling any device with an embedded Bluetooth (4.0 or later) or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio to run Gimbal's firmware and access its security and geofencing services.

"We see this as an opportunity to sell our hardware where it makes sense," says Kevin Hunter, Gimbal's chief operating officer, "but also integrate our firmware into other things—everything from jukeboxes to ATMs to access points used in the retail or hospitality industry."

Gimbal's Kevin Hunter
In recent months Gimbal has formed a number of partnerships through which it is deploying its technology—sometimes both hardware and firmware, and other times firmware only—to support various businesses' customer outreach efforts. Ruckus Wireless, a location-based services company, announced this week that it will begin adding BLE radios running Gimbal's firmware to its FlexZone access points, which it sells to retailers and other businesses to track customers' movements via Wi-Fi—and now through Bluetooth, with the added ability to support smartphone applications.

This spring, Gimbal announced a partnership with Attract Media, a platform that provides a means for advertisers to message consumers through a beacon-based application. Attract Media's parent company, TouchTunes, offers a mobile app that consumers can use to select and pay for songs on Playdium, its Bluetooth-enabled jukeboxes. Through the partnership with Gimbal, Attract Media serves its customers' ads to consumers who use the Playdium app.

Hunter notes that there could be many ways in which hoteliers or other companies in the hospitality industry could leverage Gimbal firmware in order to turn devices, such as set-top-boxes or LED light bulbs, into beacons. Even devices that lack embedded Bluetooth modules could be turned into beacons, he says, by adding a BLE module via a USB dongle, though Gimbal does not make USB dongles. Such devices could be used to offer points or special offers to customers who are enrolled in a hotel's or travel operator's loyalty program and run that company's branded application on their phones.

Doug Thompson, the CEO of beacon software development firm dot3 and the publisher of the beacon industry blog BEEKn, says Gimbal's move toward licensing its firmware as a standalone product is significant since it is the first beacon manufacturer to do so, and because it allows the company to leverage its security protocol, which he says has always been one Gimbal's strengths in the industry.

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