Biometric evolution

Voice authentication is fast emerging as one of the most secure, yet simple, ways to identify an individual.

Johannesburg, 19 Sep 2018
Read time 5min 00sec
Andrew Dawson, Commercial Director, Solutions in Hand.
Andrew Dawson, Commercial Director, Solutions in Hand.

Fingerprints, facial recognition, iris scanning: all of these are used by businesses to enable accurate employee tracking and authentication. The field of biometrics is constantly evolving to attain the ultimate secure way to ensure that the person is, in fact, who they claim to be. The one thing they have in common is that they can't be easily faked, and when used in combination, are often virtually failsafe.

Enter the latest member of the biometric security family: voice authentication. Andrew Dawson, commercial director of Solutions in Hand, explains the use case for deploying voice authentication instead of the other biometric identification technologies out there. "Voice recognition is particularly suited to people who work in security, or as shelf merchandisers or even factory staff, to ensure that you have the right person on site. If the person works flexible hours and across multiple locations, and possibly at remote sites, this may be the easiest way of ensuring that they are where they're meant to be.

"We have seen cases where people send a friend or family member to fill in for them, resulting in an inexperienced or untrained person on site, which can prove detrimental to your business."

Dawson cites an example from the FMCG sector. "All of the big players in the FMCG sector rely on merchandisers to stock retail outlet shelves with their products. If your product isn't on the shelf, it can't sell, so the merchandiser is a key component. The ability to manage merchandisers and ensure that the right merchandiser is at the right site, at the right time, is a huge value-add for the retail sector."

Time-keeping is another key element: is the employee there on time and how do you prove that? Voice authentication can be combined with timestamps and GPS tagging to verify that the individual is where they are meant to be. This is particularly valuable when tracking the movements of a security officer who is patrolling an area, for example.

Dawson explains: "A voice authentication application is available to be downloaded to a user's mobile device or wrap around a Web service. From there, it will be able to authenticate the user based on numerous triggers set up from the administrative dashboard, be it time-based triggers, or triggers dictated by a geofenced location. The triggers request that the user authenticate him / herself and allow for a flexible authentication system."

He goes on to explain how voice authentication works. "Once the individual registers their voice on the application, it analyses the voice and builds up a voice fingerprint that's unique to that individual."

Over and above the unique identifier, which is common to all types of biometric recognition, voice authentication has the added benefit of not requiring the use of complex or high-tech scanners. Facial recognition, for example, requires some variety of high-definition camera, a feature that is not often found in the front-facing cameras of low-end smartphones, while fingerprint scanning isn't always effective, particularly when people work with their hands. It's also heavily reliant on the accuracy of the scanner being utilised.

"Voice authentication has widespread deployability owing to the fact that the application runs on almost any device but has its most viable use case on a smartphone, and pretty much every modern mobile phone has a speaker and microphone that are of adequate quality to perform the authentication."

It's even possible to use voice recognition as an authentication layer for an application, to require the individual to authenticate themselves before they can access the application that will enable them to perform the task that they're hired to do. "Wrapping layers of authentication around the application is far more secure than using a code or password to access it and provides a layer of immutable individual access," adds Dawson.

He says: "Because voice authentication is so easy to use, requiring very little technology compared to other biometric identification solutions, we're going to see it adopted increasingly as a methodology of authentication. It renders language or accent irrelevant and instead uses a combination of vocal features to uniquely fingerprint and identify your voice."

Other areas that could benefit significantly from voice authentication include call centres. Currently, customers trying to interact with their banks or insurance companies have to answer a host of increasingly complicated questions in order to verify their identity. It would be so much simpler, and would make for a far better customer experience, if their voices could be authenticated instead of them having to remember a PIN or the name of their childhood pet.

In fact, says Dawson, one could take it a step further and automate the process so that, once the person's voice has been authenticated, they are immediately routed to the right person. This type of capability has the potential to bring layers of efficiency and accuracy to all fields and areas of communication.

He concludes by saying: "We're only starting to scratch the surface when it comes to voice authentication; I believe it's going to become one of the most pervasive forms of authentication going forward."

Five benefits of voice authentication:

* It allows for accurate individual authentication in a timely manner.
* It can be used on every semi-modern mobile phone.
* It's more secure than a password or PIN.
* Has widespread deployability owing to its flexible nature.
* It's easy to implement and use.

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