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By Greg Kumparak

Tearing through a mountain of mobile phone data isn’t much fun, but someone has to do it — and it looks like it pays well enough. Just 4 years after its founding, mobile research firm Zokem has been snatched up for $11.7 million up front, with a potential payout of an additional $12 million through 2014.

Their buyer? Arbitron Inc. (NYSE:ARB), a company focused on — hey, whatd’ya know? — consumer research.

Zokem is sort of like a European Flurry. Their main product is an SDK which developers can plug-in into their smartphone (iOS, BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Phone) application to gather up all sorts of anonymous data like usage patterns, signal strength, and creepier stuff like location. Zokem had raised around $2M in funding prior to the acquisition, all from European VCs (specifically, Finland’s Veraventure.)

Up until this point, Arbitron’s primary research beat has been on collecting listener data for the radio industry. They poll a random chunk of the radio-listening population in just shy of 300 regions, then sell that data to broadcasters, networks, and ad agencies.

With the acquisition, Zokem will be changing its name to Arbitron Mobile, with Zokem’s CEO Dr. Hannu Verkasalo leading the mobile division.

Just shy of $12 million with a payout of another $12 million within a few years? Not bad for a company with just 14 employees. Not bad at all.

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Source: With Acquisition, Arbitron Solidifies Move Past Radio