A closer look at PPM 360


Now that Arbitron has unveiled the next generation of its Portable People Meter (PPM) technology, PPM 360, where is it heading? RBR-TVBR spoke with the point-man for the technology, Arbitron Chief Technology Officer Taymoor Arshi.

For years we’ve been hearing broadcasters ask why Arbitron doesn’t simply integrate PPM into smart cell phones. Since PPM 360 is using cellular telephone wireless technology to relay data, why not go the next step and use actual cell phones?

“We took a phased approach to answer that question. It is a very good question. We have currently in PPM 360 the technology – we have integrated cellular technology so it is completely wireless and can function inside the smart phone. But it’s really more than a technology question. We need to do a lot more research and testing on being phone-based or PC-based. To be able to answer that question it will take a while before we get there,” Arshi replied.

The similarities to consumer cell phones are cited as important improvements in the PPM 360. It is smaller, sleeker and easier for panelists to deal with than the current pager-like PPM meter. With no docking station required, it can be recharged with a USB plug into a PC or on a simple charger that plugs into a wall socket. It has a digital display with one-way text-messaging capability so Arbitron can send messages to the panelist.

Here’s a question that will interest investors. Will it save Arbitron any money? 

“Definitely there will be fewer pieces of equipment that we will be sending panelists, so that by itself is a cost saving. Also, because it is a wireless device it doesn’t require a cellular modem in cell phone-only households. So there are some cost savings for sure,” Arshi said.

Being wireless means that the meter can send back data more often, whereas the current devices can only transmit data when docked at night. Arbitron will not be restricted to collecting data only on a daily basis. That will open the door to new services that Arbitron will be able to offer clients which are even now in the early development stage.

“With PPM 360 technology we are establishing the foundation for the future – and the future can take us in different directions. One that you mentioned, and obviously we will be looking at, are smart phones and PCs and other devices. The other is utilizing this new platform and offering new services – ad exposure or getting the data right after a major event – those kinds of new services, and the capabilities are built into the platform of the PPM 360. We will take those directions when the time comes,” Arshi explained.

Field testing of PPM 360 will take several months, so Arshi said there is no timetable yet for the new meters to be phased in and replace the pager-like PPM devices.