US Bank Tests Voice Biometrics for Customer Authentication

Banker Resource
March 17, 2014 — 1,548 views  
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US Bank, a unit of US Bancorp, recently announced that it was testing the concept of voice verification or biometrics for use among its customers for accessing their accounts. The bank is among a list of other banks that are testing this new option, including Barclays and Wells Fargo.

Authentication based on biometrics is already in place in several companies and applications, and typically include face or fingerprints. The voice authentication system is valuable for banks because customers could verify over phone or through the Internet. This saves crucial time for banks and their customers, apart from curbing frauds. Voice-based biometrics are not the same as recognition of speech, because the latter detects what is said in a phrase or sets of words. The voice-based biometric system is all about identifying the individual uttering those words or phrases.

How the system works

Users of voice-based biometrics can sign in to an app or a website by uttering a word or a sentence. This is then compared to earlier recordings of the same customer for verification. The application seeks three voice samples of the user, to account for voice and tone variations. US Bank officials say this software will be a replacement of the old password entry system on a cellphone device. The bank is monitoring the success percentage of the biometric system’s success on factors such as noise in the background that could come in the way of its impact.

Voice authentication to boom

The software, provided by Nuance Communications, has seen a success rate of 95 to 99 percent in other places where it has been deployed. As many as 35 million individuals have been using it, according to the software firm. The bank is exploring the possibility of using the voice biometric system in its response units and call centers, apart from its use in accessing bank account data. Recent research has pegged the number of voice-based biometric users across the world will increase from ten million in 2014 to over 200 million next year.

Last year, Barclays became the first firm in the financial service sector to use voice-based biometrics as a method of verifying customers in its call center facilities. The bank even won an award for using technology in its customer service wing. Wells Fargo has also been trying voice-based authentication systems and envisages this technology as a practical one that customers can use.

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