CES 2014: ZTE Introduces Voice Biometric Screen Lock to its Android Devices

Voice biometrics have been gaining popularity recently in the area of smartphone security. The authentication modality is a natural fit for phones: it requires no additional hardware since the entire initial concept of the phone was (at least originally) based around a microphone and a speaker, in some cases it can run in the background of applications providing a passive level of verification, and – in addition to being more secure than a four digit PIN – it is incredibly easy to use.

This week at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014), voice biometrics have been making a big impact on attendees. Where some may have expected a larger presence of fingerprint sensor technology on mobile devices in response to the iPhone 5S launch in September, it seems that the competition has been exploring different ways to authenticate in the coming post-password landscape. To this effect ZTE, a provider of Android mobile devices, announced that it will be leveraging the Nuance Communications voice biometric technology that it already uses to provide hands-free interface for users to grant access past the lock screen.

This new functionality is a natural fit for devices that already use the human voice as an interface tool. Nuance’s technology has so far allowed ZTE device users to use their phones in a hands free “Car Mode,” so it makes perfect sense that general access be granted by the same token.

Speaking of ZTE’s Car Mode, the company also announced that the convenient way to connect while driving has also received an upgrade. Now carrying what ZTE describes as a barge-in feature, users can interact with their phones in mid-function. This effectively allows for real-time voice control during music functions, letting a user pause, stop and navigate to different songs whenever they want.

Of course, a Car Mode simply isn’t a Car Mode without handy navigation tools. The hands free voice functionality on new ZTE Android devices lets a driver ask her phone where a location is and it will display an appropriate Google Map.

Again, voice as a lock and as an interface is all about convenience, and it certainly appears that ZTE, through its collaboration with Nuance, is dedicated to bringing that into the fray as smartphone OEMs from all around the world scramble to find the modality that is right for their customers. Considering that earlier this week AGNITiO revealed its FIDO Ready Voice iD solution, these two partners aren’t the only companies convinced that the future of authentication is hands free.