Applications for voice biometrics

In a digital age, the way we communicate, and authenticate, has implications for a wide range of business and consumer applications. The remote nature of most of our day-to-day communications means we are frequently required to prove who we are in order to gain access to systems and data alike.

Unfortunately, the escalation in identity theft, fraud and social engineering attacks means businesses have been compelled to provide additional security to protect user data, accounts and services. Multi-factor authentication has become a way of life for many, but not all authentication methods are created equal.

In recent years, voice biometrics has been gaining traction because of its robust, fraud mitigation characteristics. However, its scalability and user-experience benefits, compared to other biometrics technologies, have resulted in an uplift in adoption across a broader range of applications.

Contact centres

The most widespread use of voice biometrics is within the contact centre space. Research suggests the proportion of inbound calls requiring ID&V is about 68%*. The average time for this type of agent-led interaction is just over half a minute, although in some cases it can take much longer.

Using speech biometrics to verify and authenticate callers saves time (approximately two thirds) and effort for both the customer and the agent. By eliminating the tedious security questions at the beginning of every customer service engagement, service providers can improve the overall customer experience and reduce the cost to serve.

Fraud prevention

With identity theft on the rise, multi-factor authentication is increasingly used to prevent unauthorised access to customer data or financial resources. Fraud prevention is not just a regulatory issue, it’s a brand issue. While fraud causes financial losses to a business, the resulting “crisis of confidence” can be even more damaging in the long-term.

Deploying voice biometrics as part of a multi-factor authentication system can provide a higher degree of security than traditional PINs and passwords, both of which can easily be “known”. The use of voice for verification and authentication is more robust, easy to implement and requires no additional hardware (unlike other biometric technologies such as iris scans or fingerprints).

Workforce management

Voice biometrics is already playing an essential role in workforce management applications. For organisations with a large, distributed workforce, speaker verification is a secure alternative to badging systems, providing a GDPR compliant solution that helps to reduce personnel absenteeism.

Deployed correctly, the solution allows workers to certify in real-time the start/pause/end of activities, even when working remotely or in locations without access to additional infrastructure, such as badge readers. This removes the ability to falsify work or cover absence from the workplace, assuring the reputations of those who work honestly.

Crucially, voice biometrics reduces the burden on infrastructure and internal departments, speeding up the approval time for requests, eliminating data entry and the use of paper in the human resources department, improving the management of sudden absences, emergencies and resource availability.

Financial services

The global financial services market has been transformed in recent years. Mobile banking and other FinTech solutions have made customers’ lives easier, but have added a greater degree of risk. Voice biometrics is being used to process thousands of verifications a day, in multiple languages.

For certain applications, voice biometrics can be leveraged to create voice signatures, a legally binding method of underwriting documents such as life assurance policies. Voice signatures can also be used to authorise financial transactions where PCI DSS compliance is mandated. Other developments, such as the new Payment Service Directive (PSD2), where multi-factor authentication is required for financial transactions, further cement the growing importance of voice biometrics in this sector.

Healthcare services

For healthcare applications, such as those related to patient management and electronic health records, voice biometrics provides an additional layer of security. Preventing unauthorised access to patient records helps reduce exposure to the negative impact of data breaches and mitigates the economic consequences of medical identity theft. It also meets the strict compliance obligations of HIPAA and HITECH.

Speaker verification also supports speech-enabled, automated outbound calling. This helps the healthcare provider ensure the person answering or receiving the call is the right one i.e., the one entitled to receive the patient information. For inbound services that enable patients to call in to book appointments with a GP, the technology allows callers to identify themselves by voice, providing a more efficient experience and freeing up surgery staff for other critical engagements.

Public services

Voice biometrics is being used to establish caller identity in a wide range of public service applications. For benefits services, it provides both proof of life and accurate speaker identification. Allowing claimants to authenticate by phone saves them a trip to the government office, reduces on-site queuing times and improves back-office efficiency.

In prison environments, telephone “privileges” are typically provided by third party service providers who need to establish the identity and entitlements for each inmate before they make a call. Using voice biometrics securely limits phone system access to those with entitlement. It can also be used to monitor the whereabouts of prisoners; speaker verification can be used to implement automated checks for accessing certain areas, requiring a voice ID response as confirmation of presence and identity.

Compared with other biometrics technologies, voice has a number of advantages. For example, it doesn’t rely upon the presence of additional hardware, making it suitable for remote site applications. It is also simple to use, resulting in a high level of user acceptance. As the technology matures, the applications of voice biometrics will only continue to grow.

If you are thinking of introducing voice biometrics for authentication and verification, contact one of our consultants on +44 (0) 1908 27 38 38 (UK).

*Source: Contact Babel 2019.