How Do We Know Who You Are?

In a few short years, SpeechWorks
International Inc.
has become one of the leading provider of speech-recognized applications. Nowadays,
companies as large as E*Trade and are
turning to SpeechWorks to assist with sales, customer service and other
business functions. And, soon, through the initiatives of strategic partner
and shareholder America Online Inc. , SpeechWorks will be able to help Internet service providers
enter a whole new field.

But don’t be confused that voice recognition equates to verification.
Many engineers and developers now concentrating intently on enabling us with
these recognition capabilities aren’t necessarily focused on serious
security questions like verifying you are in fact who you say you are. In
speech technology, one is not always associated with the other.

To address this problem, SpeechWorks this week rolled out
SpeechSecure® — verification technology supplied by
T-NETIX Inc., a leading provider of
fraud control software technologies. Through the SpeechSecure technology,
verification can be added on to the flagship SpeechWorks™ 6 product
that is popular at enterprises, telecommunications and speech portal
companies where privacy and security is essential. Pricing is based on an
incremental charge per port.

But are companies that look to the promise of speech recognition even
interested in verification technology? Yes, indeed. One recent survey
conducted by J. Markowitz Consultants found approximately 38 percent of the
prospective customers reported they intend to use speaker verification with
speech recognition.

“Technology like SpeechSecure makes it possible to add the power of
biometric security to these systems without diminishing their fundamental
convenience and caller-friendliness,” said Judith Markowitz, president of
the voice-based biometrics outfit.

Boston-based SpeechWorks , which specializes in
recognition technology, boasts an even firmer foundation of technology.
Its products incorporate patented technologies based on research originally
conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The company is
headed by President Mike Phillips, who himself used to be a speech research
scientist at MIT for seven years.

“With SpeechSecure, our customers can be confident that they are better
serving the needs of their callers as well as opening up greater
possibilities for the use of speech recognition,” Steve Chambers, vice
president of worldwide marketing at SpeechWorks.

The add-on uses a highly effective voice verification solution to confirm
a caller’s identity by creating and matching a voiceprint — think of it as
an audible finger print to positively ID users. Once a caller’s voiceprint
is established, the system can determine automatically and quickly that
person’s identity before providing access to sensitive information. Each
time the caller uses the system, his or her voice is verified against the
established voiceprint.

This provides a crucial added measure of security for e-commerce, financial,
medical and other important sectors. And, users don’t even have to log in a
PIN number, long considered a hassle for great yet fleeting minds.

Sound perfect? Almost, but not quite, said Markowitz.

Markowitz said that while both speech recognition and verifcation are not
perfect, the technology is usually 95 percent accurate or higher, a detail
surely not lost on clients. She also said they have they have the same kinds
of vulnerabilites. For example, external noises can often interfere with the
way the devices perceive what and who is being said. If someone has a cold,
this changes the voice pattern. Or, suppose a truck is flying b

y while
someone is trying to spring their phone or handheld to life via voice. Such
distractions and variations can alter a device’s perception. After all,
Markowitz said, speech recognition and verification aren’t smart
technologies just yet, but she is sure they will be in years to come.

The market for voice biometrics is projected to be approximately $200
million by 2005 in the U.S, according to Markowitz. While this estimate
doesn’t touch the trillion-dollar estimates some research firms are clinging
to for e-commerce, it’s certainly not chump change.

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