Market Spotlight: Security

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Every business, big or small, has to think about security in the digital age. Whether it’s a data breach at a big box retailer or the misuse of personal Facebook data, the nightly news is filled with horror stories about the nefarious deeds of cybercriminals and data miners. As perilous as the digital world can be for those charged with securing data, there are many solutions to be found in technology. Speech biometrics and AI have been stepping up to the plate, helping put an added layer of security between you and the bad guys. But it’s not all about voice identification—there’s plenty more to consider in this emerging space.

According to the Biometric Research Group’s Speech and Voice Recognition, “Surveys we have analyzed have found that consumers prefer voice recognition technology for biometric identification. According to a survey conducted by IT provider Unisys, the biometric modalities ranked by consumer preference are: voice recognition (32 percent), fingerprints (27 percent), facial scan (20 percent), hand geometry (12 percent), and iris scan (10 percent). As a result, the Biometrics Research Group projects that voice recognition will be widely adopted.” Ease of use makes speech biometrics a favorite among users, according to the whitepaper. Add to this the fact that voice biometrics are relatively inexpensive in comparison to other biometrics options, and it seems the market is ready to explode.

From Call Centers to Mobile Apps to Smart Speakers

In some sectors, voice biometrics are going beyond providing functional security to helping create better customer experiences.

According to PYMNTS.com, call center fraud has soared by 350% over four years. So it’s no surprise that Patrick Kelly, chief revenue officer at Privakey—a company that streamlines “the way people authenticate their identities and authorize anything by delivering secure, interactive content via Privakey-enabled mobile apps”—says, “We are seeing innovative uses of biometrics for call center identification, eliminating the need for an agent to interrogate the caller.” Not only do voice biometrics provide excellent security, but they free up agents to tackle more complex tasks and reduce frustration among callers (who may bristle at being asked the same verification questions over and over by agents).

“Voice biometrics are powered by machine learning models that enable an AI to learn from examples and correctly identify a person’s voice,” says Jason Mars, CEO and cofounder of Clinc, which provides conversational AI experiences.

One of the industries where voice identification is coming in especially handy is mobile banking.

According to the aforementioned Biometric Research Group’s white paper, “Financial institutions have identified voice biometrics as one of the best means to secure its client accounts and financial information.” But that’s a relatively predictable use of the technology.

Kelly says biometrics are also being employed in corporate workflows, where, for instance, a manager is able to approve a transaction with the biometrics right on their phone instead of having to log in to a system. He adds, “We believe that the use of biometrics for any interaction requiring identity assurance and user intent authorization is a good idea as it typically improves both the security and convenience of the experience—a true win-win!”

Privakey is also trying to solve some of the security issues around smart speakers using biometrics. “One of the major challenges with smart speaker applications/skills is the subject of account linking. For instance, I can link my bank account to the bank’s Alexa skill—but from that moment on, anyone that can speak to my Alexa can gain access to the information available through the skill—the Alexa platform cannot distinguish who is actually speaking to the device,” says Kelly. “Skill developers know this, and as a result, limit the skills’ functionality to ‘safe’ activities that don’t involve higher-value/riskier actions like money transfers, large purchases, or access to PII. We believe that better identity assurance and more secure user intent verification are needed for platforms like Alexa to reach their greatest potential.”

Currently, Privakey allows app/skill developers to use the biometrics already on users’ phones—like fingerprint ID—to verify that a smart speaker has asked to log in to an app with private information. But Kelly says, “It’s pretty clear that in the long term, Amazon and Google will introduce voice recognition technology that will be available to skill developers that gives them greater confidence of the identity of the user interacting with the device. That said, it’s going to be a large learning and trust curve before consumers have confidence that they can simply speak to a smart speaker about sensitive information and not be putting themselves at risk.”

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