Magazine article CRM Magazine

Voice Biometrics Needs to Adapt for Age; Voice Changes over Time Can Challenge the Accuracy of Some Customer Authentication Systems

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Voice Biometrics Needs to Adapt for Age; Voice Changes over Time Can Challenge the Accuracy of Some Customer Authentication Systems

Article excerpt

As companies continue to increase their use of voice biometrics as a way to identify and authenticate customers before interactions that require a high degree of security, accuracy has always been a top concern. False readings can deny access to legitimate customers or grant access to fraudsters, either of which can have serious impacts on businesses and customer relationships.

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Companies have known for some time that certain factors, such as mood, surroundings, and colds, can affect the accuracy of such solutions, but new research by Pindrop, an Atlanta-based provider of enterprise solutions to secure phone and voice communications, found another factor that can have an even more dramatic effect on how well voice biometrics works: the aging process.

Pindrop recently completed a two-year study that found that voice biometric accuracy rates decline sharply over time, with expected error rates (EERs) nearly doubling in just two years.

Elie Khoury, principal research scientist at Pindrop, led the study, which analyzed former president Barack Obama's speech patterns in recordings of more than 400 speeches during his eight years in office and found a significant degradation in voice biometrics systems' ability to recognize Obama's voice. During that time, the accuracy rating dropped by 23 percent. At the accuracy threshold most banks use to identify callers, systems would have started rejecting the former president after two years.

During the same test on former president George W. Bush, the rate of voice degradation was even higher.

The Pindrop research team also tracked 122 speakers in six languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, and Italian), over two years and found that error rates doubled from 4 percent to 8 percent in that time. There was a noticeable degradation already after just four months.

This could be problematic, given that 48 percent of people only call into their banks' call centers once every eight months, according to the research.

The study found that female voices change less than male voices, and voices of men 60 and over change the most dramatically, aside from kids going through puberty. Additionally, people's voices age at varying rates.

The research, while alarming, isn't much of a surprise. As people age, so too do the muscles, vocal chords, and other structures that they use to speak. …

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