IBM talks up voice-based biometric user verification

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IBM talks up voice-based biometric user verification

Cliff Saran

IBM is developing software that could enable IT directors to deploy biometric user authentication systems based on voice recognition technology.

IBM has been researching a technique known as "conversational biometrics", which it demonstrated at last week's SpeechTek conference in New York. It said the approach provided a non-intrusive and highly accurate mechanism for determining and authenticating user identities based on analysis of their voice.

Unlike other biometrics, voice contains multiple sources of information that can be acquired using existing technology and used for recognising and verifying user ­identities, the IBM research team said.

The acoustics of a user's voice can be analysed without the need to recognise spoken words, said IBM. In addition, because voice is a medium for conveying user knowledge, it is possible to perform two levels of checks: a voiceprint match and a user knowledge match (ie password).

Unlike other biometrics, such as fingerprints, which require specialised sensors, IBM said conversational biometrics require no additional client hardware, only a suitable microphone, such as a PC mike, telephone or mobile phone.

One example where this type of authentication could be deployed is in a mobile device for wireless banking applications.

In a presentation to the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit earlier this year, IBM director of UK government business Rebecca George and Peter Waggett, who runs the emerging technology programme at IBM's Hursley Laboratory near Winchester, discussed the development of server technology for conversational biometrics that could be integrated into a telephony system.

"[Conversational biometrics] can be used wherever security is a concern, and whenever user verification needs to be performed," the strategy unit was told.

However, George and Waggett noted that the technology was untested and it would take time to develop into a commercial product.

 

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