Nielsen continues to test the feasibility of integrating PPM technology into smartphones as a way to augment the ratings service. PPM-enabled smartphones could potentially be used to supplement its existing meters, Nielsen says, not replace them.

“There’s always going to be a need for a high-quality projectable panel that’s weighted to the universe,” Nielsen Audio managing director Brad Kelly says. Prototypes of PPM-equipped smartphones were shown at the company’s client conference in December.

Broadcasters are generally supportive of the concept—providing it is rigorously vetted through research first. “We’re supportive of any modernization that would enable more people to be panelists and improve sample size and perhaps even capture more listening,” says Radha Subramanyam, president, Insights, Research and Data Analytics at iHeartMedia. But before PPM-enabled smartphones could be commercially implemented, there would need to be parallel tests of the new devices showing the listening data they produce is not only “representative and comprehensive, but even better than what we have today,” she says.

Before that can happen, two significant technological hurdles need to be overcome: microphones and battery life. Cellphones use directional microphones designed to filter out ambient noise, which is not a good complementary recipe for detecting PPM codes. On the other hand, the PPM microphone is hearing-aid quality and the most expensive element in the meter, Nielsen says.

Then there’s the matter of battery life—an always-on meter drains cellphone batteries, which is something respondents may not tolerate. Nielsen says its engineers are making progress on solutions to both issues, but work still remains. “We agree that there is some solution or some augmentation supplement to what we’re doing based in smartphones and it’s something we’re working towards,” Kelly says.

Given the swift pace of technological development, many would like to see the company step on the gas. “They’re going in the right direction but I think everyone would like them to go faster,” says Jay Guyther, partner in ROI Media Solutions, a media measurement research & marketing consultancy. “You need to increase sample sizes dramatically to be able to measure all these new ways people enjoy entertainment. That’s where some new thinking has to come into it.”