• May 1, 2011
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI

Mobile: The New Frontier for Voice Security

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A recent Twitter poll conducted by Nuance Communications on consumer preferences for mobile customer service, transactions, and security found that nearly one-third of respondents believe voice biometrics is the best method for verifying their identities on mobile devices.

According to the poll, 84 percent of consumers contact customer service through their mobile phones. More than half (53 percent) of all those polled said that security risks are a main concern when they complete transactions on their mobile devices.

“Now more than ever, the need for enhanced security [on mobile phones] is critical,” Hetal Pandya, director of product management at Nuance, said in a statement. “Consumers are using their mobile devices as their passports to managing their lives, from paying bills to managing and setting up their accounts. Voice biometrics gives them the added level of security needed to ensure that their information is protected every step of the way.”

Organizers of the Voice Biometrics Conference agree, and that’s why this year’s gathering in Amsterdam in late March featured security on mobile devices as a central theme. With 5 million mobile devices in the world, “there’s a reason a lot of attention is being paid [to mobile voice security],” says Dan Miller, senior analyst and founder of Opus Research, the event’s organizer. “There’s an interest among the people that own these devices to do more with them, and so we’re just now starting to uncover the security flaws in them.”

According to Miller, the mobile phone has quickly become “a personal assistant, wallet, PC, and search engine” for most people. “It already has your contact list and all your personal information, and if you lose it, you are in trouble. There’s a real need to have more security on your mobile device and in the apps that run on that device.”

Opus Research “is seeing a broader opportunity, driven by mobile, for integrating a solution that incorporates voice biometrics in a way that is easy to use over the phone,” Miller adds. “We do live in a dangerous world, and we’re all exposed to the risk of identity theft every day.”

It’s with that as a backdrop that Opus Research and VoiceVault this year unveiled the Mobile Voice Biometric Challenge to uncover the application or service that makes the best use of voice biometrics on a mobile device for activation, access control, user authentication, or other applications. About a dozen companies entered the contest, but in the end contact center solutions provider Helex, which is part of the BrightCloud Group, walked away with the $1,000 top prize. The company’s BioProximity app, which runs on Android-based phones, verifies people’s identities after receiving location-aware mobile marketing messages.

Other finalists included Logica, which created a mobile banking app; BluePlanet Apps, whose BioLock application unlocks mobile phones; and Hold Free Systems, which entered an app to authenticate remote agents logging on for work at a call center.

According to Miller, the Helex app “captured our imagination and has immediate commercial viability while, at the same time, lays the foundation for broader applications and deployment scenarios in the future.”

The challenge originally was touted as a highly visible means to promote awareness of voice biometrics among mobile application developers, and it did that and more, according to Miller. “It’s still a technology that requires a lot of thoughtful innovation,” he says. “The future of voice biometrics is now in the hands of adjacent industries, systems integrators, and developers.”

News Editor Leonard Klie can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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