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Biometric Voiceprint Technology

Voice Recognition 

Considered an easier system to thwart since voice patterns are not as distinctive as other biometrics. Industry goals include improved screening of background noise.

Deployment trends: Social Security Administration, State Department exploring online, telecommunications access control.

Spending in 2002: $12.2 million Projected spending in 2007: $142.1 million

Nuance, a voice automation expert, has developed a packaged speech application that authenticates callers' identity over the phone before allowing access to private information. Company officials said Nuance Caller Authentication also secures self-service transactions of all types.

The voice security software can be employed within a range of environments and scenarios from authorizing credit card transactions and stock trades to enabling automated bill paying and name and address changes.

Nuance's voice authentication engine uses "voiceprints" to secure access to specific information and transactions over the phone. The voiceprint functions much like a fingerprint to verify a person's identity. Before transactions are authorized, users' spoken voiceprints are compared to those previously enrolled. When an exact match is verified, the transaction is performed.

Instead of entering cumbersome PINs into the phone's keypad or answering lengthy personal questions, callers simply speak a set of digits. They are authenticated based on the unique characteristics of their voice.

The system requires minimal voice recognition training by the customer, according to Larry Heck, vice president of Research and Development for Nuance Speech Engines. "A caller utters a short script. The initial training with the software requires three readings. Based on that input, the software builds a template of the caller's vocal pattern," Heck said.

At this level of biometrics security, Nuance's Caller Authentication software is for enterprise applications rather than consumer use. Chatow said the software's speech recognition module is so secure that the company has not had any attempts at intrusion or hacking.

He said prerecorded responses from a caller do not trick the system. Attempts to use such voice recordings are blocked by requiring the caller to repeat three random phrases the software generates or repeat a digital sequence.

The voice recognition engine can even identify known fraudulent callers based on its database.

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