INTERVIEW: Dan Miller, Lead Analyst & Founder, Opus Research

INTERVIEW: Dan Miller, Lead Analyst & Founder, Opus ResearchAs connectivity speeds up and spreads out, security and authentication are becoming prime concerns in the Internet of Things and an increasingly mobile-first society. Addressing these concerns, we see voice biometrics and intelligent authentication solutions on the rise. Dan Miller, lead analyst and founder of Opus Research—who many readers will recall was a special guest expert in the recent FindBiometrics Voice Biometrics Month webinar—spoke with Mobile ID World President Peter O’Neill about the upcoming Intelligent Authentication Conference in San Francisco. The conversation covers how vice recognition is evolving to serve the increasingly connected world, the role of authentication in 5G and Internet of Things, and the conference itself—to be held September 12th and 13th.

Peter O’Neill, President, Mobile ID World: Can you please tell us about your Intelligent Authentication Conference coming up in September in San Francisco please?

Dan Miller, Lead Analyst & Founder, Opus Research: Absolutely, very happy to. On September 12th and 13th we are convening our second Intelligent Authentication Conference but lest that mislead people it is more like the fifteenth of what our voice biometrics coverage has evolved into. One of the things that we noticed in the past couple of years is that focusing purely on voice biometrics as a technology was going to be too narrow and really not meet the demands of a marketplace for ideas about how people can authenticate themselves to carry out activities, i.e. commerce, transactions, conversations, over digital channels. That applies to omni channel digital commerce through websites over the phone and however we want to carry things out as we control both our online and offline activities.

MIDW: What will be covered in this conference? I know that we have spoken a little bit in the past about artificial intelligence, machine learning etc., but what are some of the drivers behind this?

Opus: The key driver is that, as individuals carry out more activities online, there has been an explosion of activity around supporting those activities through the use of artificial intelligence culminating in what Opus Research calls Intelligent Assistance through bots, through personal assistants, and through enterprise intelligent assistants. Intelligent Assistance has to be accompanied by the evolution of authentication to support a better customer experience and sort of the seamless travel from website to customer care over the phone, back to talking to an individual in the store and so on. We are going to find that Intelligent Authentication means the simplest, most friction-free way for us to assert identity and confirm that it is indeed us.

That each individual is whom he or she claims to be in order to get personalized service and the sorts of entitlements that they have through loyalty programs and that sort of thing. So to answer your question directly, it does involve natural language understanding being married with speech recognition, speaker recognition, and a conversational way to carry out commerce over a number of media.  

MIDW: This is a very hot topic. I just got back from the Mobile World Congress Show in Shanghai and everybody is wrestling with this whole area right now. The timing could not be better to bring the experts in this field together to try and iron it out. What are some of the challenges we are facing in this regard?

Opus: Well they fall into a number of categories. You brought up bringing the experts together; we have vendors and we have implementers from banks and financial services. You will see MasterCard, you will see RSA, you will see some of the companies that are actually involved in building the intelligent assistance for enterprises and they are discussing the challenges of implementation which many of them have overcome. I would think it would surprise people to learn that we came out of the field with a census that shows a 150 million people around the world have already enrolled their voice prints to be used to quickly authenticate themselves as they carry out business with telecommunication companies, with financial services companies, moving into healthcare, and more and more just generally across the board with mobile.

Now, since development is happening on all those fronts there are some really practical discussions to have about the technical and organizational challenges of bringing a new way of authenticating into both the customer work flow and the customer care workflows. The idea is to build a big tent for experts in customer experience, in digital commerce and security for that matter to describe and understand how this is actually happening because I think we have a lot of sceptics out there. So I would say the biggest challenge is overcoming scepticism.

The second is that once you realize that this transformation is happening, how you integrate or where the integration points are for things like mobile authentication, what sort of business rules that are generated by CRM systems, by the security workflow, what needs to be applied in real time to support seamless and frictionless authentication.

MIDW: You know, it is interesting Dan, because again I’ve just come back from this China show so it is fresh on my mind and everybody there was talking about the speed that all this is happening and now that the world is moving to a 5G platform in over the let’s say next five years or so, we will have a tremendous speed ability to be able to deal with some of this activity. But when we talk about the speed that this is all occurring, are you feeling that we are prepared to deal with this rapid acceleration in terms of both needs but also where the industry is heading? How are we going to deal with that?

Opus: I think it starts with getting a conversation started at venues like ours, the Intelligent Authentication Conference, where you do get the customer experience people talking to security people and the IT folks… where you start building the understanding of what the technological challenges are and what terminology we are going to use. One of the terms that has come up, and it will be on the agenda, is around support of “continuous authentication”, which is something that is required as you mentioned when the 5G networks come along and people are doing more and more activities through their mobile devices.

Their mobile devices aren’t phones. They are computers and they are launch points for a number of apps and, incidentally, those apps are being replaced by some sort of conversational entity or a messaging platform and just defining how you maintain confidence that the individual on that messaging platform who has perhaps decided to transfer funds from their bank account to something in Eastern Europe or Africa, when you need to sort of put the brakes on something like that. What level of authentication is required to carry out certain activities, how you minimize that to make it friction free.

It’s going to be use case driven and it is going to be user driven. The question is, who is in the driver seat? If we do this right it becomes very much a customer-centric or person-centric set of activities and people will demand the ability to move around seamlessly but they are also going to demand privacy and security as they carry out more and more things over these networks.

That is the mandate. The mandate is the classic balancing between security and convenience. What we are exposing are some of the technological challenges to doing that and then we bring people together from all of those camps because this is the classic, “it takes a village” kind of activity where you are going to have the security person making the customer care or customer experience people a little more aware of how we all work together to make this both secure and convenient.

MIDW: Well I think the timing of all of this is critically important and I like what you are saying about the fact that now is the time to bring the experts together to start to have the conversations as soon as possible and get the whole thing moving. It was interesting that Ericsson just released their latest mobile report that says that the IoT is going to be experiencing explosive growth and the control of IoT applications is likely to develop with voice control first and foremost. When you look at all of these happening at the same time I think again the timing is perfect to have this type of gathering to make sure we are heading down the right path.

Opus: Yes, and to Ericsson you can add a list of companies that start with Intel, with Cisco, with IBM, with RSA, to expand infrastructure and security infrastructure that totally recognize that. There is a proliferation of intelligent endpoints for which you can call the Internet of Things and what the user experience or user interface for individuals to take charge of their Echo or their smart devices in the home, stuff that is in your car that is going to be voice controlled or voice activated. It just seems really natural to try to figure out how you can incorporate voice and other biometrics and other factors into sort of maintaining about a person on who he or she claims to be and then how their experience gets personalized. And yes, voice is a total match over.

MIDW: Dan, can you just remind our readers when and where this event will be occurring?

Opus: This will be September 12th and 13th in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel, one of my favorite landmark hotels in the world. It is a half day on the first day, the 12th, starting around noon and then carrying through the 13th.

MIDW: Thank you very much Dan for taking the time to speak with us today.

Opus: Well thank you Peter, always a pleasure.