The founder of one of the first online payment systems has launched a new way for people to buy goods over the Internet or via their cell phones. The new service, called Voice Pay, uses biometric voice analysis to authenticate users. The company says its technology is so reliable that it will guarantee all payments.
According to founder Nick Ogden, who also set up the World Pay scheme in 1994 (a predecessor of PayPal), Voice Pay should make it much easier to buy items online or on the go, while dramatically reducing fraud. Voice authentication is the way to go, Ogden says, because “the world is becoming increasingly more mobile, as hardware becomes increasingly keyboardless.”
To use Voice Pay, consumers first need to set up an account. This one-time enrollment process involves calling a Voice Pay number from a cell phone and establishing a user name and password, as well as providing credit-card information. The consumer will also be asked to register a particular cell-phone number and give a voice print by repeating a series of randomly generated numbers. “It takes about five minutes to do,” says Ogden. “Then you’re ready to shop.”
There are a number of ways to use the system. People can shop online at participating stores by clicking on a Voice Pay icon on the store’s website and then entering their user name and password. Once the customer is logged into Voice Pay, the system will automatically dial the cell-phone number previously registered to the account. An automated attendant will then initiate a challenge-response procedure, asking the customer to repeat two randomly generated four-digit numbers into the phone. The system will then compare the utterances to the voice registered with the account and, if the two match, the automated attendant will list the details of the purchase and ask if the account holder wishes to proceed. To go ahead with the purchase, all the account holder needs to say is “yes,” says Ogden.
Account holders will also be able to buy goods when they are not online just by using their cell phone. If a customer sees an item advertised in a newspaper or magazine that she wishes to buy, she simply calls the Voice Pay number and keys in a nine-digit product code listed next to the item. The user is then prompted to say two randomly generated numbers. If the user’s voice matches the voice associated with the account, the transaction will be completed and the item delivered to the registered address.
The biometric voice-print system behind Voice Pay was developed by Dublin-based Voice Vault. Voice Vault’s software analyzes 117 different parameters from the user’s voice to build up a unique profile of her vocal tract. This profile is independent of what the person is saying or of any kinds of background sounds, says Vance Harris, chief technology officer at Voice Vault.