Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Speaker Authentication using Voice Biometrics - Now's the time!

I'm working on a project for one of my clients who's interested in using voice biometrics to authenticate callers. Voice biometrics uses the unique ways that individuals formulate phonemes to create a voice signature that can be used to validate a person's identity at a later time. It seems that the actual use cases today are fairly narrow, mostly password reset applications such as those from Nuance Communications or access to corporate based auto-attendants.

Based on the research I've been doing for my client, several recent environmental and economic changes make this a compelling time to investigate integrating voice biometric based authentication into your transactional environment.

Three factors make this so:

  • The advent of so many hosted SaaS (software as a service) offerings from experienced voice services firms like Voxeo, TradeHarbor, BeVocal, Convergys, Authentify,, CSIdentity, PhoneFactor and others.

  • Ubiquity of telephones (both land line and cellular) as a transaction end point for authentication across all channels. Even internet based transactions can use outbound phone calls to reach a user to authenticate them.

  • The ability to combine speech recognition and voice authentication to achieve true multi-factor authentication and the corresponding higher confidence in the security provided by using speech recognition to gather content (something the user knows) and voice authentication (some the user is).

The move to SaaS offerings is a real game changer, significantly lowering the barrier of entry by lowering the cost and the integration complexity with existing applications - regardless of the channel. Since it's voice and there is a phone available almost everywhere to use as the authentication end-point there is no need to invest in expensive dedicated hardware like fingerprint scanners and cameras for facial recognition.

When faced with the need for more secure access to transactions across a variety of channels (phone, web, smart phones, etc.) voice based authentication can provide high confidence, secure, multi-factor authentication with a lower capital expenditure, less complexity and quicker time to implementation that any other biometric solution that I've examined.