Guess Who? – Speaker Verification Technology

Who Am IThis week there was news that Barclays Wealth & Investment Management has implemented a speaker verification solution from Nuance. Barclays is using Nuance’s FreeSpeech product to verify a customer’s identity without asking for a password or digging for answers to personal questions. How does the technology work?

A customer calls into a contact center and starts up a conversation with a human customer support agent. FreeSpeech listens in the background and biometrically analyzes the speaker’s voice pattern. It matches the voice against a stored audio file that was built for that customer during earlier calls. During these subsequent interactions with the call canter, the FreeSpeech voice recognition software can usually verify the customer’s identity within less than half a minute into the conversation. The process is completely transparent.

Detailed documentation describing the Nuance FreeSpeech product indicates that the software works regardless of language or accents. It relies strictly on the individual’s unique voice print. In a case where the system cannot verify the person with a high enough level of confidence, the human customer service agent is notified and alternative methods of identification (such as asking for answers to stored questions) can be used.

Research shows that many people would rather scrub toilets than come up with new passwords they have to remember. No kidding. If biometric technology exists that can minimize the user’s pain of authentication, then it seems like a worthwhile thing to pursue.

Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before customer-facing virtual agents are equipped with speaker verification capabilities, so that they can ensure a web or mobile customer’s identity prior to aiding them with an account transaction. Voice-based authentication might also be a helpful role for enterprise virtual agents that serve employees within a business’s own internal application environment. I’ll be on the lookout for more implementations of the technology.

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