Voice Biometrics a Fan Favorite Among Consumers

NEW YORK (Voice Biometrics Conference 2008) -- While vendors at this year's Voice Biometrics Conference admit it’s difficult to get enterprise customers to invest in new technologies, increased threats to consumer security are making voice biometrics an attractive option. In fact, Opus Research senior analyst Dan Miller predicted in a 2007 report that the market, with $80 million in licensing and application revenue in 2006, will grow to an $800 million industry by 2011.

Further highlighting the technology's potential, a study conducted in April by Harris Interactive for Nuance Communications found that consumers are embracing voice verification in protecting important personal information. Findings from this study suggest that voice verification is viewed as a business differentiator with nearly two-fifths of those surveyed agreeing they prefer to do business with a company that provides voice verification solutions. After hearing an audio clip of a voice verification process, three-fifths of the respondents were likely to use voice verification as a form of security. Sixty-one percent of respondents feel that voice verification is a secure form of identity verification for phone access to customer service data. And 83 percent of respondents agreed that institutions should require different forms of identity verification based on the types of transactions.

Additional findings include:

  • Fifty-two percent of respondents were somewhat to not at all secure about the safety of their personal data.
  • While consumers want improved data protection, they want it to be convenient. When asked "why would you use voice verification," the top two responses were protection against identity theft (23 percent), and not having to remember passwords/PINs (19 percent).
  • Sixty percent of respondents feel that voice verification is a secure, very secure, or extremely secure for identity verification.
  • Voice verification was viewed as more secure than other methods that can be used over the phone, including home phone number, memorable information, password, PIN, and account information. 

This biometrics survey was conducted online and via phone within the United States and involved 576 respondents who had contacted customer service in the past 12 months.

In response to these trends, Nuance announced today its support of caller authentication solutions. While Nuance currently has offered the technology as point solutions, the company is working to develop actual voice verification applications. Chuck Buffum, vice president of authentication solutions at Nuance, believes that many enterprise customers want to see how others in the community deploy voice biometrics before doing so themselves—an insight that Miller echoes. However Buffum emphasized that Nuance remains committed to developing voice authentication solutions. 

While there have been large customer-facing deployments in Europe and Canada—ABN AMRO and Bell Canada have two of the most publicized deployments—there have been markedly fewer in America. "What happens in Canada stays in Canada," Miller says about Bell Canada’s biometrics solution, provided by PerSay.  

William Zhang, who works in the online services division of investment management firm Vanguard Group, says his company is interested in gauging how other American financial institutions initiate a voice biometrics solution. Additionally, because 80 percent of customer interactions happen through the Web, most of Vanguard’s security resources are devoted to that channel.

However, when Vanguard’s customers do contact the enterprise, it’s usually to make major changes to their accounts. Thus, Zhang says, it’s important for the company to bolster security for those occasions.    

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