A Voice of Approval
Patent No. 6,529,871
INVENTION: A way to verify identity using both voice authentication and personal queries
BENEFIT: Reduces the chance of fraudulent telephone transactions
Dial up your bank, and chances are a recorded message will request your personal identification number, and an operator will ask for your mother’s maiden name or other personal information. It’s hardly an infallible way to verify identity. An alternate method-automatic voice recognition-can have trouble with background noise or even the natural variability in people’s voices. But by combining the two methods, IBM believes it has created a way to provide far better fraud protection than either affords alone-without sacrificing convenience.
The invention-by Dimitri Kanevsky and Stephane Maes at IBM’s Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, NY-records a “voiceprint,” or sample of a user’s speech, for later comparisons. It also records the user’s answers to a series of personal questions. Then, during a transaction, if both the voice and the answers match its records, it grants access. But it’s not quite that simple: the technology also generates additional questions based on account information, such as, “What was the amount of your last withdrawal?” It asks questions in random order, so recordings of previous sessions can’t be used to commit fraud. And it can be calibrated to ask more questions, or require a closer voice match, for a customer requesting a large transaction.
Several IBM customers are now testing early prototypes, which build on IBM’s expertise in voice recognition technology. The challenge lies in getting all the variables aligned for the tightest security with the fewest delays or errors. Though there’s no official date for a product launch, the system could be on the market in a few years. IBM hopes the technique will eventually become as mainstream-and secure-as today’s fingerprinting, iris-scanning, and facial recognition systems, which are projected to form a combined $1.2 billion market this year, as places like airports and banks begin using them as security measures. -Patric Hadenius