Arbitron is unveiling this week its next generation portable people meter device. Dubbed PPM 360, the new sleeker device allows Arbitron to wirelessly upload listening data, rather than waiting for panelists to return home to dock the meter.

Arbitron hopes to roll out the new meter to its PPM markets in 2011 following the successful completion of a field test in one market later this summer. The rollout to Arbitron's 48 portable people meter markets will take about 18 months.

Potentially, the PPM 360 technology could save Arbitron some operational costs because there is less equipment for panelists to install. The new meter could also increase compliance among panelists, because they don't have to dock the meter at home every night, just recharge it every 60-65 hours. And because the PPM 360 continually transmits data, Arbitron could speed up ratings delivery to clients, especially for live events, such as sports.

The ratings firm, which currently has 33 PPM markets on its way to 48 by the end of the year, has high hopes for the untested new meter technology.

"I seriously doubt that Arbitron will not be using this [new meter]. It's still the same PPM technology, just extending it onto a wireless platform," said Taymoor Arshi, chief technology officer for Arbitron, who says that the new device paves the way for the development of new measurement services.

By moving the PPM to a wireless platform, Arbitron can easily send instructions to the meter, instantly communicate with panelists (on a small message screen), and potentially install PPM tracking software on other mobile devices, such as cell phones.

"Moving [the PPM] to other mobile devices will be a lot easier," Arshi said. "We are talking about a lot of new applications and services, beyond just ratings," he added.