Invisibility: The Place of Voice Biometrics In the Mobile Landscape

Agnitio LogoDuring the question and answer period of yesterday’s webinar titled “The Mobile Biometrics Market Landscape” (presented by findBIOMETRICS president Peter O’Neill and Acuity Market Intelligence’s Maxine Most), an audience member asked about the place of voice biometrics in the industry model that Maxine had proposed. Her answer addressed the concerns of vendors who might be worrying that fingerprint fever is going to dominate the mobile biometrics discourse thanks to innovations like Touch ID: she described a near future in which a mobile device measured a wide number of biometrics in a scalable multifactor fashion, adding metrics whenever higher than normal clearance is needed.

Voice biometrics obviously fits well with smartphones – devices that despite adding new features with every iteration are still used to transmit spoken words long distances in real time. How well they fit, however, might not be as obvious.

The reason that biometrics are ready to replace the inadequate PIN and password security has almost as much to do with better protection as it does with convenience. If using a fingerprint sensor was even slightly more cumbersome than entering a PIN, consumers would not be flocking to the iPhone 5S and embracing the new (to them) technology. Biometric solutions made for the customer are low friction, and that’s why they are a perfect fit for the smartphone. Voice biometrics, in the right context, can be next to invisible.

Today Fonetic, a company specializing in authentication solutions powered by Agnitio’s voice biometrics engine technology, announced that its invisible layer of protection has been integrated into its Dodd-Frank Trading Record Keeping Compliance Solution. Made to protect banks from fraud in trading, the solution captures caller voiceprints and turns them into searchable data that can then be used to authenticate based on a variety of factors like call content.

Most importantly, this is a passive process. No pass-phrases need to be spoken in order to grant access. Voiceprints can be measured as a caller speaks and flags can be raised accordingly. In an ideal deployment, a positively authenticated speaker won’t even know the biometric security is there.

“Voice recordings play a critical role in helping banks maintain regulatory compliance and protect themselves against risk and fraud, but they become an infinitely more powerful tool when banks can use them to verify who is actually speaking with whom,” says Fonetic CEO Juan Manuel Soto. “Fonetic’s new biometric voice analysis capability helps banks ‘connect the dots’ between the speaker and their words, which improves communication transparency and increases protection for the organization.”

Fonetic’s solution exists on the institution’s side of a transaction, but there is no reason that the same kind of invisible functionality can’t eventually be employed on a personal device. There is an easily imagined possible future when, if a phone is stolen and the criminal spoofs their way past the initial fingerprint based security, a similar solution could be used to verify a voiceprint when a new number is dialled, locking and possibly wiping the device clean on a confirmed intrusion.

The key to looking at the emerging mobile biometric landscape is that security is scalable and multifactor. All biometrics have a place as long as they follow one rule: they stay out of our way.