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Bank services Act. 21 Aug 2020

Voice biometrics: The voice print will become online banking’s greatest ally.

Voice is already the gateway to many services and applications that have become an integral part of our daily lives. The level of intuitiveness and user-friendliness enabled by voice-based interfaces place them heads and shoulders above other options when it comes to interacting in a seamless way with our devices. From a biometrics standpoint, voice offers additional benefits.

Voice biometrics is a technology that relies on the recognition of voice patterns to verify the identity of individuals. This is possible because each person’s vocal tract is unique. Physical features, both phonetic and morphological, are particular to each individual, making them virtually fraud-proof. As a result, voice recognition technologies enable a higher level of security than other identification systems, such as PIN-based systems.

In recent years, speaking to voice interfaces has become a normal part of our lives. We interact with voice-enabled assistants in our cars, smartphones and smart devices at home,” says Raúl Navarrete, director of Mobile Channel at BBVA Spain. “In the future,” he explains “voice biometric technologies will solve present user authentication issues when interacting with our bank or paying our utility bills.” In fact, there are many voice-activated services that are already being used today, such as speaker identity verification in customer service channels or answering to queries made through mobile banking or assistants (such as Alexa, Google Assistant, Bixby or Telegram).

According to Raúl Navarrete, voice-activated services offer a plethora of benefits in term of security and ease of use thanks to their password-free nature, and user friendliness, because they rely on what’s our natural means of communication. “Furthermore, and unlike other biometric solutions, voice biometrics don’t require additional devices or specific ‘hardware’ to work, such as cameras, fingerprint or iris scanners. All that’s needed is a device equipped with a microphone, so any phone supports it,” he says.

Voice print is coming

Probably the most significant use of voice recognition systems is that they prevent identity fraud, a feature that is extreme useful in a wide variety of settings. Alberto Anaya, vice president of Digital Solutions at Grupo CMC, offers several examples: “If we are talking about the fraud that many call centers suffer, voice biometric systems are capable of unequivocally identifying the person on the other side of the line, with the added benefit that the voice also becomes a protection for users who themselves can be the victims in the case of impersonations.

A quick voice test would allow users to prove that they have been the victim of a scam carried out by a third party. “Broadening the scope of this concept, voice biometrics can also be used to build ‘voice print’ blacklists, so that if the voice print of a caller were to match that of a known fraudster it would be possible to activate an alert and launch the corresponding security protocol.”

 “In the future voice biometrics will solve existing user authentication issues to allow us to safely interact with our bank or automated assistants to pay our utility bills.”

Spanish banks are already rolling out voice enabled interfaces to allow users to interact with their systems and use their services, as well as verify their identity. At BBVA, technology teams are working to improve the current user experience by replacing ID verification questionnaires with a voice based authentication system. The next steps would be “to be able to identify a customer based on their voice in order to offer them a better service, even allow them to sign operations”, says Navarrete.

Technologies that use voice as the main form of interaction will become increasingly relevant in coming years. It is already possible to run internet searches, interact with ‘apps’ or control certain objects using only voice commands. In banking, “the voice print will join fingerprint or facial recognition as a unique and personal identifier to make payments”, says the Head of Mobile Channel at BBVA Spain.

And what’s more, as Grupo CMC’s vice president of Digital Solutions points out, “in the future, and in combination with AI and ‘machine learning’ technologies, voice analytics will make it possible to detect user moods and, based on this, trigger different actions,” he concludes.

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