Speech Technology Magazine

 

Market Leaders: Speech Security

By Leonard Klie - Posted Jul 1, 2010
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THE MARKET

Experts predict that mobile applications for voice biometrics technology will likely explode in the next year or two, fueled largely by growth in mobile banking applications. With nearly 200,000 apps available for the iPhone and about 60,000 available for Android phones, smartphone users can conduct many financial transactions—tasks like making purchases, electronic bill-paying, adding to prepaid accounts, couponing, and transferring funds—with their mobile devices.

But despite their popularity, many of these applications are surprisingly unsecured, according to Dan Miller, senior analyst at Opus Research. “There’s a lot you can do, but I do not see a lot of security in that,” he states.

While the speech security industry as a whole faces many challenges, perhaps most pervasive are the issues of usability and public perception. Vendors must grapple with a weary consumer base that often views the technology as “Big-Brotherish.” Then there’s the problem of trust; many people still don’t trust these systems.

For voice biometrics to gain wider acceptance, it must be secure, practical, cost-effective, less obtrusive, and feasible. But regardless of its current hindrances, customers might soon have no choice but to accept voice biometrics due to legislative pressure mandating multifactor authentication for many online and telephone financial transactions. 

THE LEADERS

After a brief absence from the leaderboard, last year’s Vendor Contender, Agnitio, is back and posting some impressive numbers in the voice biometrics arena, particularly in the areas of accuracy, company expertise, and ease of use. The company—which offers text- and language-independent solutions, has taken its field-tested solutions and company expertise in government and homeland security applications and begun moving them into the commercial sector, particularly the call center environment. While the lack of enterprise customers remained a sticking point for our analysts, an increased number of deployments, an attraction among new verticals, companywide expansion, the launch of third-generation products, and another round of funding have all prompted new interest in the Madrid-based company.

Since acquiring BBN Technologies in late 2009, Raytheon makes its first appearance on the voice security leaderboard this year. The company’s strong presence in military and government applications proved to be a dual-edged sword: Analysts gave it an industry-leading rating of 5.0 (on a five-point scale) for its expertise, but at the same time they argued that neither Raytheon nor BBN have much experience in the commercial sector. Nonetheless, Judith Markowitz, president of J. Markowitz Consultants, called the company’s products “research-grade technology.” 

THE WINNER

PerSay repeated again this year atop the leaderboard, paving the way for the entire industry with a number of new introductions. The Israel-based voice biometrics provider scored an industry-leading 4.6 in accuracy (brought about with the introduction of a new text-dependent voice biometrics engine) and a 4.7 in company expertise. With some very high-profile customer and partner signings, the vendor ensures a dominant role for years to come, but it also marked the past year with the introduction of real-time fraudster detection capabilities; the unique Evaluation Studio, which enables quick, optimized, step-by-step evaluation of any voice biometrics product; and a patent for a unique liveness detection process that can identify and mitigate interception and voice phishing threats.

VENDOR CONTENDER

Long seated atop the leaderboard in the speech engine category, Loquendo this year checks into the voice security category, a first since it began offering speaker identification and verification products in 2005. The Italian company garnered high marks in accuracy, company expertise, customer satisfaction, and ease of use. The only negative the company encountered from our analysts was for the higher cost of its solutions. 

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