Voice Biometrics – a key technology to assist organisations to improve service and reduce fraud

by TransUnion


As the business realm continues to digitise, fraud, ID theft and information security concerns grow, and strong authentication becomes a critical issue. Voice biometrics is being adopted globally by companies, especially those with large contact centre operations, because it offers faster, improved authentication, a better customer experience and a reduction in fraud. With banks and telecoms service providers already rolling out voice biometrics locally, TransUnion has begun development of a national Voice Bank in partnership with OneVault. This innovative offering is accessible via a hosted pay-per-use solution enabling the benefits of voice biometrics to the local market.

Authentication is a moving target. The business sector has moved from PIN and password authentication to knowledge-based authentication in order to increase security. Voice biometrics extends these mechanisms even further.  A voice print, because it is built on unique individual characteristics, is similar to a fingerprint and is unique to each person.  More importantly, voice biometric authentication is the only reliable solution to introduce biometrics via a remote channel – the telephone.

Who benefits?

There are significant benefits for both consumers and business.  Organisations that employ voice biometrics reduce call handling times for agent-assisted calls, giving the ability to get to the heart of a consumer’s enquiry quickly with the overall result of improved customer and agent satisfaction.  In addition, identification accuracy is increased which assists in mitigating fraud.  As operational costs reduce, businesses can more aggressively and confidently evaluate and promote additional customer self-service.  In global studies, users experience 80 percent faster authentication via voice biometrics, with 90 percent of users preferring the solution over the status quo.  Thus, voice biometric authentication combined with other multi-factor authentication methodologies, can deliver enhanced business value.

How does voice biometrics work?

Voice biometrics are unique – they cannot be hacked. Voice biometrics uses a person’s natural voice pattern as a password for authenticating access to services typically offered via contact centres (agent or Interactive Voice Response, or IVR) and mobile applications, as well as to validate Web transactions. 

Voice-based authentication works in two distinct modes:

  • Passive authentication occurs during natural conversation. Enrolment is performed during a conversation with a contact centre agent, and subsequent verification of the person’s voice can occur in real time during normal conversation.
  • Active authentication occurs using a specific passphrase which is then verified against a stored voiceprint. Enrolment simply requires the user to repeat the passphrase to fulfil the enrolment process and confirm a reliable voice print.

TransUnion’s hosted solution

“Voice biometrics adds a new capability to TransUnion’s Fraud and Authentication solutions, which include knowledge-based authentication, fingerprint verification, fraud prevention models and automated decision support solutions.”

Says TransUnion’s Tim Frost, Vice President: Product Management & Development. “Our partnership with South Africa’s leading specialist voice biometric solutions provider has meant that we can offer our customers an important addition to our authentication solution stack.  Voice biometrics provides a step-up in security, a new user experience and a service differentiator, as well as driving lower operational costs. It lowers business risk while improving business competitiveness, and increasing customer satisfaction”.

The hosted Voice Bank solution currently has 30,000 voice prints, primarily acquired via TransUnion’s consumer call centre, but is expected to grow rapidly.  TransUnion anticipates that building this Voice Bank will deliver significant value to corporate customers as this data type is reliable and unique.

How does it work?

TransUnion makes use of the OneVault voice biometric product suite to collect voice prints and notes that the solution works well in conjunction with other authentication solutions. Says Frost: “Voice biometrics integrates seamlessly with the existing authentication solutions of our clients. For example, the ability to check location or cellphone devices can add additional levels of validation which can be linked to a voiceprint to provide an enhanced confidence score.”

Why now?

A number of trends are converging in South Africa at present. Security is being heightened as companies become more aware of the risk to the organisation and the customer, and they start to come to grips it. A number of high profile cases, such as Sony and JP Morgan, have underlined the issues of data security and the threats associated with hacking. South Africa, like the rest of the world, is encouraging transactions and product applications to shift online, but consequently is seeing increases in identity theft and in card transaction fraud.  Consumers are increasingly vulnerable and technologies such as voice biometrics provide additional security measures that help to address these concerns.

Says Frost: “South Africa is at the start of this journey. We are working to provide our customers with a trusted, nationally supported Voice Bank and voice biometric solution that will not just add security, but will support an improved end-consumer experience and digital business growth.”

About OneVault

OneVault is a focused Biometric Voice Authentication company.  We unlock the power of every individual’s voice to provide the most secure, remote authentication channel available. Our focus with respect to the voice biometrics space, has allowed us to develop a set of core competencies and capabilities that are unparalleled in the South African market. OneVault offers our clients secure, easily accessible, 3rd factor authentication that seamlessly integrates with their IT infrastructure. OneVault offers both on premise and hosted solutions.  Our hosted offering means our clients’ can leverage our ‘tuned’ active voice authentication engine resulting in fast, simple solution deployment.