A Matter of Time

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In 2008 I wrote a column about voice verification applications. At the time, I saw promise and new applications but no explosive growth. Then the economy tanked, and funding went along with it. 

Now that we’re finally emerging from the down economy, where is voice verification? Voice verification or authentication deployments are often not advertised, so real growth is hard to pin down. Governments—and not just in the United States—often go into stealth mode with their biometric deployments, preferring them to work in the background. Still there are promising signs. For example, Speech Technology Center (STC) announced in August that 250 local police departments in Mexico are using its voice biometrics solutions to identify speakers. Deployments in the Middle East, Asia, and the United States are also cropping up. 

One of the reasons for this is that costs have come down and deployment strategies have changed. Perhaps the biggest change has been the appearance of authentication-as-a-service, which enables a company to pay for just what it needs and uses. Angel, for example, offers this service as part of its Virtual Call Center solutions through a partnership with VoiceVault. Angel says adding voice verification to a self-service application can dramatically drive down the costs of completing transactions. Rather than sending out a document to be signed for about $30 for the entire transaction, using voice verification over the phone drives the cost down to roughly 50 cents per transaction. Since launching voice verification as a plug-and-play application, Angel has seen a big uptake in the number of companies deploying it, particularly in the finance, insurance, and government verticals. 

Convergys, which also provides voice authentication applications for contact centers both on-premises and in the cloud, has seen its sales pipeline grow, particularly in the past six months in numerous verticals across the U.S., Portugal, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. The cable, wireless, and telecommunications markets have shown growth, particularly because the business case is so compelling for this type of solution. Voice authentication can be used to authenticate callers prior to transferring them to service, shaving 30 seconds or more off of each call, which adds up to very significant savings. In addition to the more traditional adopters of the technology, Convergys also has seen growing activity in new areas, including authentication for users of mobile device applications. 

Numerous companies offer voice identity applications on their own or through partnerships with companies like Angel and Convergys. VoiceVault, Anakam, and VoiceVerified, for example, offer a wider range of solutions than those most commonly used in the contact center. Newer areas where these applications are finding a home include mobile, Web, and enterprise applications. For example, an application on the Web that needs secure access, such as updating an account or making a transaction, can be made more secure through voice verification. The user accesses his account through a normal password or PIN and is given either a one-time toll-free number to call or a callback to his phone, and is then verified. 

Voice authentication isn’t just for consumers, either. I have seen a huge increase in the use of remote or at-home agents as an extension of a contact center, which also has led to an increase in the use of creative authentication strategies to allay the fears of customers and contact center managers who worry about the security of customer data. Anakam’s Identity Suite, for example, provides comprehensive third-factor authentication for at-home agents so that when agents log in, they are verified in multiple ways, including voice. Other applications for workers are also gaining traction. For example, time and location tracking using authentication allows mobile workers, such as home healthcare workers or service technicians, to call in from a customer location and be verified. 

So while exact market numbers aren’t known, we do know that the applications for voice verification are growing. 

Nancy Jamison is principal analyst at Jamison Consulting. She can be reached at nsj@jamisons.com or at www.jamison-consulting.com.

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