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Voice Biometrics: A Better Way to ID Over the Phone?

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May 17, 2011

Voice Biometrics: A Better Way to ID Over the Phone?

By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Voice biometrics are now being used in real life, not science fiction, for a range of applications, not the least of which is customer service.

According to officials of Dimension Data South Africa, voice biometrics are useful places other types of biometrics are not -- access control tool for miners, for example, whose fingerprints don’t work with traditional biometric devices.

Another is telephone customer service. Simon Cranswick, general manager for Dimension Data (News - Alert) Customer Interactive Solutions in the Western Cape of South Africa, said recently that voice biometrics “not only addresses a need for tighter security, but also business objectives around cost containment and increasing efficiencies and convenience.”

First a definition: A voice biometric is “the unique representation of the characteristics of an individual's vocal tract.” For identification purposes, a sample of speech is matched to a person and stored, and matched against the sample required for identity verification.

One of the greatest drawbacks of PINs and challenge question is their inability to verify physical identity over the phone. If somebody simply overhears you give your PIN and mother’s maiden name, they can access your accounts. They cannot do so with voice identification, which is described by company officials as “nearly impossible to forge.”

How exact is it? “While a fingerprint has approximately 40 unique characteristics, a voiceprint has over 100 such characteristics, making it an extremely secure means of verification,” company officials say.

Dimension Data South Africa sells voice biometrics solutions for kiosk, iPhone (News - Alert) and PC apps, using data networks and a graphics user interface to extend the functionality “beyond contact center and IVR self-service applications to effectively securing access to corporate systems, Web sites and buildings,” according to company officials.

A couple months ago TMC’s (News - Alert) Shamila Janakiraman wrote that vendor VoiceVault announced the release of VoiceVault Fusion, a new version of its voice biometric product which features a comprehensive upgrade to its core biometric capability:

“For companies and call centers looking to improve customer service, secure data storage, and maximize call center agent efficiency, using voice biometrics provides a unique solution. Using a caller’s voice to approve identification and satisfy security requirements eliminates much of the hassle associated with IVR customer service. Voice biometrics, a more advanced IVR solution, allows for companies to replace paper-based signature processes with real-time voice signatures, to streamline customer verification processes, and to increase fraud protection.”

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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