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Arbiton Needs to Incorporate PPM on Smartphones ‘At the Right Time’

'Whether it's advertising or measurement, we need to focus on smartphones'

Arbitron has been working on integrating its Portable People meter into various devices, as we’ve reported. The audience research firm feels it has to pay attention to the convergence of television and the Internet, for example.

At a consultants’ meeting in Annapolis, Md., this week, Dr. Taymoor Arshi, senior vice president for engineering and chief technology officer for Arbitron, couldn’t give an exact timeline for when the company will roll out PPM in smartphones. But he did give attendees an overview of tech trends the company is watching.

That convergence of TV and Internet is a big one as the company pays attention to mobile devices and wireless infrastructure. Smartphones and netbooks are the fastest-growing products in their categories over the past two years, Arshi noted. More capable and affordable devices have come out like Palm, BlackBerry and Google Phone.

“They keep it on themselves and as you carry that device it can be observing a lot of things. Whether it’s advertising or measurement we need to focus on smartphones,” he said.

The interconnection of the Internet and mobile devices is enabling the rise of social networking, he said. Intel, where Arshi worked before he came to Arbitron in 2008, always wanted to have a PC in the family room. The idea was to help people connect their TV, VCR and have one unit manage all that. However it didn’t happen, according to Arshi. People wanted fewer wires and boxes.

Intel and Yahoo have collaborated on Widget TV, which debuted at CES this year. The user uses a remote control to activate widgets on the television screen, opening photos, Web pages and other information on the screen in addition to the TV show you’re watching.

Given these examples of technology convergence, using only PPM to measure audience isn’t enough, he said. In the latter example, you’d miss Internet use with a PPM-only measurement.

Today’s measurement technologies are adequate, but for the future, measurement technology needs to be built into devices, he said, to follow content across various devices.

So PPM is on the roadmap to be on the smartphone, “but need to make sure we roll it out at right time,” he concluded.