UK-based biometrics start-up, Voicekey has developed an iPhone app that could replace PINs as a means to validate financial transactions.
The OpenSezMe app has been developed in conjunction with Nottingham Trent University. Using patent-pending software, it extracts unique features from an individual’s voice to forge personalized biometric ‘classifiers.’ These classifiers are then stored in either a central database or locally on a user’s iPhone.
The app is available for free on the Apple App Store. It prompts the user to speak a random phrase three times to establish the user’s unique voice biometric.
“The OpenSezMe app uses voice biometric technology to secure personal or confidential data on a mobile phone,” explains Tony Allen, Managing/Technical Director at Voicekey Ltd.
While the app is currently being used more as a marketing aid for Voicekey and voice biometrics in general than a ready-to-use solution, the future use cases for the technology seem promising.
“The underlying voice biometric technology uses a patented technique to produce unique voice biometric classifiers (not voiceprints) from very short enrollment phrases,” explains Allen. “This biometric classifier (the voicekey) is then stored on the user’s mobile device, allowing them to own their personal biometric.”
When a user wants to access their data, they simply open the app and generate a verification sample by speaking a short, prompted random phrase that is then – along with the stored voicekey – sent to the Voicekey server. It is in the Voicekey server where the biometric verification process occurs, and transmits a confidence score back to the phone.
“The phone uses this confidence score plus a user threshold setting to decide whether it is the enrolled user speaking or not,” says Allen. “If yes, the app allows access to the secret data. If no, the app refuses access.”
Nottingham Trent University’s contribution to the project comes from Allen’s time as a student conducting academic research into the field of voice biometrics and speech-enabled systems.
“The core voice biometric technology used by VoiceKey (and the app) is built on my academic research,” reveals Allen. “I wrote the patent based on this research back in 2009 and subsequently used this to obtain venture capital money to establish a University spin-out company to commercialize the technology.”
It is a move that has proven to be a beneficial one for the biometric start up, as Allen reveals that the future of Voicekey looks promising. “Since establishing ourselves as a company, we have been successful in securing three UK government grants/contracts to help develop this work and are currently developing an m-commerce solution based on this technology,” reveals Allen.
Allen and his associates are certainly keen on advancing the technology and he reveals that later iterations of the OpenSezMe app will only provide greater functionality.
“For now, however, the primary function of the OpenSezMe app is to generate interest and commercial contracts for the company based on the technology demonstrated by the app,” explains Allen. “We are talking with several major financial and telecom organizations with a view to developing voice verified solutions that will control access to call centers, automated help desks, mobile enterprise devices and secure web services.”