Auraya Blog

Voice Biometrics: Emerging Applications in Artificial Intelligence and National Security

Pryathna Sankaranarayanan | July 10, 2017 | 4 minutes


Banks will tell you that the customer’s voice is their command… so why isn’t voice recognition software more popular? It’s a question Clive Summerfield, CTO of Auraya Systems and founder of the voice biometrics technology software ArmorVox is keen to find an answer.

The Global Password Issue

People do not like passwords and millions of consumers say so in annual surveys right around the world. And yet the average person has at least 19 different logins to remember – or forget. No wonder then that a third of us admit to suffering password rage.

But what if our voice was our password? Could financial technology restore the power of speech?

“Customers have been calling for the elimination of pins and passwords for the last 10 years and the technology is here to replace them.” says Dr Clive Summerfield, chief technology officer with specialist voice biometrics company, Auraya, based in Sydney, Australia.
“It just makes so much sense. You only have to look at it in terms of business productivity, financial security, fraud detection and tracking, and then also consider that compliance requirements with the banking regulator are increasing around stronger identity authentication,” he says.

And that’s quite apart from the uptick in customer satisfaction.
“I saw a report not so long ago that credited 30 per cent of the detraction in net promoter score (NPS – customer satisfaction measurement), to clumsy, cumbersome and password-related identity authentication processes in customer service.
“It’s really up to the banks to respond to customer desire to eliminate PINs and passwords as a central piece of their frustration.”

Voice Biometrics Implementation in Financial Services

But so far only a limited number have been prepared to give customers a voice. In the UK, Barclays began introducing speech authentication among its wealthiest account holders in 2013 and HSBC is currently involved in a roll out to 15 million of its customers. Bank of New Zealand (BNZ)  deployed voice biometrics four years ago and has 40% of its retail customers enrolled, while smaller banks, such as Schwab in the US and Canada’s TD Waterhouse , also have Voice identity authentication systems.
For Summerfield, who has been involved in the voice biometrics industry for around 30 years, it’s all rather slow.
An academic specialising in speech recognition technologies, he established the National Centre for Biometric Studies at the University of Canberra in 2003 and four years later founded Auraya and led the development team that created ArmorVox. Clive and the Auraya team have helped grow the voice biometric industry with deployments of ArmorVox in all industries in most parts of the world.

Summerfield has been hugely instrumental in getting the banking world to accept voice biometrics as a legitimate technology for securing customer service and yet, for most people, their voice is till not their command. “We needed a paradigm shift to move voice biometrics away from being a laboratory curiosity into being a mainstream security technology, robust enough to protect billions of dollars of assets that are exposed by the customer service interface,” says Summerfield.
“I believe voice biometrics will become a standard feature of the emerging intelligent assistance, such as the bots that are starting to appear, driving automated customer service,” he says. “We currently see these bots in a typed chat interface that can be augmented using voice.”

Emerging Applications of Voice Biometrics

His views are shared by other secure identity management experts, particularly those working in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), where voice analytics can help a chatty bot get a handle on your emotional state and sentiment and respond accordingly.
“We can already detect and determine gender from voice, which can be very useful for a bot tailoring the type of customer service you’d want to deliver. That’s where I see voice biometrics going.”
The technology has a more serious role to play in national and financial security. Government agencies are capable of monitoring telephone intercept information and identifying speakers in the calls – a feature that the counter card fraud industry has also adopted to catch out criminals who leave their voice prints all over things.

“If a customer’s failing the voice biometric authentication for no apparent reason, and they’re failing it badly, they are clearly not the right customer,” says Summerfield.
“It may be something very innocent – a member of the family acting on their behalf. But it may also be something very serious, such as a fraudulent group attacking the bank.
“Banks have made it very hard for fraudsters to break in through firewalls, so the easiest way to break in is through the telephone network to the customer service agent. Voice biometrics is incredibly effective at stopping that from happening.,” says Summerfield whose patented Impostor Map Tuning feature maximizes authentication accuracy for each user enrolled in the system, tailoring thresholds of error to the security performance of every individual voiceprint.
“You may not actually know who it is but now you have a voice print of a known fraudulent attempt, which you can use to scan all the other voice samples that are coming in, that are failing their verification processes.
“You can build a fraud list compiled from known fraudulent calls logged in the voice logging systems at the bank. You can also use these lists to monitor suspect or suspicious calls and confirm that this person is not trying to break into the bank over and over again.”

A recent ArmorVox bench-marking exercise by Auraya involved conducting 25 million cross matches a minute. “It means that, for all intents and purposes, fraud detection and tracking is a real-time process that banks can use to monitor their incoming customer service calls.”

The SpeakEasy Bank

Voice is the only biometric to allow customers to make a request to perform a financial transaction and simultaneously authorise it, points out Summerfield. Time is money and it saves for customers and banks – not to mention embarrassment. According to a survey conducted by NICE, a -headquartered company, 55 per cent of bank customers said their biggest frustration with telephone banking was having to answer personalised security questions to a stranger when they’re in a public place.
That’s not to say voice technology should necessarily remove two-step authentication, which for now many experts agree is the best belt and braces security. But a set phrase authentication like ‘my voice is my password’ has its limitations, as illustrated by a headlining incident earlier this year when a BBC correspondent fooled HSBC’s new voice-recognition software.

“The notion of using a set phrase is not an optimum solution, and it certainly doesn’t reflect the state of the art in voice biometrics,” says Summerfield. “The new generation of voice biometric technologies, which is reflected in the ArmorVox product, allow customers to choose whatever they want to register as a voice token.”
The same HSBC’s Trust in Technology global report, released in May 2017, showed that 46 per cent of consumers put their faith in fingerprints to replace passwords and pins, while just 18 per cent trusted face and voice recognition. But with an increasing number of voice-activated devices on the market, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, and 20 per cent of online searches last year made by voice, Summerfield believes speakeasy banking is the future.

“We are definitely crossing the Rubicon with voice biometrics in the banking world,” he says. “That 20 per cent looks set to increase, particularly as we want to do more things while we’re mobile. It enables you to say, for instance, ‘tell me how much I have in my bank account’ and it will.

Credits: Fintech Finance Magazine, read the full article here:


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