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Nuance voice biometrics solution hits milestone

Nuance voice biometrics solution hits milestone

Nuance Communications has announced that its voice biometrics solution sees 300 million consumers perform more than five billion authentications annually, which it says represents a level of adoption unrivalled in the industry.

The deployment milestone shows the potential for biometrics to replace knowledge-based authentication for high-security interactions, Nuance Director of Product Strategy for Voice Biometrics Brett Beranek told Biometrics Update in an exclusive interview.

The company’s first commercial deployment was in 2001, and it reached ten million voiceprints enrolled globally around 2012, Beranek says, mostly through small-scale deployments for specific groups of employees or customers. Adoption accelerated from 2012 to 2016, when Nuance reached 150 million voiceprints. With a shift from point solutions to deployments for broad customer availability, the number of voiceprints has doubled to 300 million over the past year.

Two major factors have contributed to this change, Beranek says. One is the spur of high-profile data breaches. A wealth of proof points from early adopters have also given enterprises an improved comfort level with the technology.

“It took a couple of innovative organizations to deploy the technology and to share those data points to support widely spread adoption,” Beranek says. “It just required a certain volume of data.”

Voice biometrics also enjoy the benefit of one less barrier to adoption, compared to modalities requiring advanced sensors which Beranek points out “will follow the slowest consumers.”

“With voice biometrics, an organization can pretty much flip the switch and make it available to all their customers.”

Beranek attributes Nuance Security Suite’s success relative to competitors in the voice space largely to R&D investment. The company introduced deep neural networks for voice analysis in 2015, ahead of many competitors, he says, and has also worked to develop advanced anti-spoofing algorithms and integrate complementary technologies, including non-biometric authentication techniques.

“A lot of organizations look at out solutions and see a more complete product offering, both from a performance perspective and a capabilities perspective,” Beranek says. “We have a solution that can address both authentication and fraud prevention right across any customer care channel.”

The company’s experience also helps it ensure successful deployment, according to Beranek. “We know what organizations need to do internally, from a business process perspective, in order to have a successful deployment.”

Regulation has played a role in the previously uneven level of adoption between countries, Beranek says, but Nuance lists organizations in its announcement from around the world among those who have enrolled over 1 million voiceprints, including the Australian Taxation Office, ICICI Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Santander, TalkTalk, and Vodafone Turkey.

“Now we’re just seeing a very unanimous message coming from enterprises, that whether in the U.S. or elsewhere,” he says, “they’ve lost faith in knowledge-based authentication.”

Now Beranek notes the emergence of corporate roles and mandates to direct user verification and biometrics strategy. “Enterprises are formulating a coherent strategy, and not just investing in specific technologies opportunistically,” he says, and expresses optimism about the impact that will have on both the scale of enterprise biometric adoption, and its success.

“It won’t take long until virtually every human on the planet has at least one voiceprint. Then there are the other modalities, and yes, there will still be knowledge-based credentials out there, but for interacting with a bank or a government agency, those high-security interactions, those credentials are gone,” Beranek predicts. “Within five years, all high-risk transactions and authentications will be secured with one biometric modality or another.”

That’s why the milestone, and the acceleration which it shows, is important, according to Beranek. The much-heralded “death of the password” for all uses may not be imminent, but biometrics are replacing passwords in more than just the well-known convenience use-cases.

“A lot of popular uses of biometrics are not really replacing passwords. These numbers, however, are very concrete cases where organizations have switched over, and the velocity of the growth is paving the way and shows that it can be done. I think this is foreshadowing what can happen with other biometric modalities as well, if enterprises take the lead.”

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