Voice biometrics could curb fraud under new payments platform: Nuance

Nuance has eyed a place within Australia's new payments platform to curb fraud using voice biometrics.

Soon, Australians will be able to transfer funds from one account to another in near real-time, using only the recipient's email address or mobile phone number.

The initiative from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is nearing reality, with the RBA confirming in February that developments were on track to allow the first payments to be made through its new payments platform towards the end of this year.

With a similar system already in place in the United Kingdom, Robert Schwarz, Australia and New Zealand managing director for speech software firm Nuance, told ZDNet there is an important place for voice biometrics to curb the influx of fraud that could emerge in an instant payments environment.

"In the UK -- while banks don't necessarily like to talk about it -- what they started to see was an increased rate of account takeover," he explained. "If I can take over someone's account I only need five minutes now to be able to transfer money and have that money instantaneously in another account somewhere else where somebody can't get access to it."

Schwarz explained that previously, banks had some time to uncover fraud and stop the transaction from happening.

"When you move to these instantaneous settlement processes, they don't have that time. So stopping fraud and unauthorised transactions upfront is going to be really important to banks," he added.

"Implementing voice biometrics is a much more secure method of identifying and authenticating the user or the account owner, and is certainly going to help mitigating more of that fraud as these new systems come in."

The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), in partnership with Nuance, announced earlier this month it would be introducing voice biometrics to its mobile banking in a bid to improve security on high value transactions.

From mid-2017, customers transferring more than AU$1,000 through ANZ's mobile apps will be able to use their voice to automatically authorise high value payments, and bypass usual security measures such as visiting a branch in person.

"What ANZ bank has done around implementing voice biometrics is going to have multiple benefits for their customers," Schwarz said. "First and foremost is the security side by being able to secure some of these larger transactions. They're using it for a step up authentication process, because voice is a lot more secure than a lot of the other modalities that are out there."

As a result of introducing voice biometrics on its mobile platform, Schwarz said ANZ will be able to leverage the technology to enable more customers to "self service" when it comes to authenticated transactions, which previously required human validation.

Nuance also recently partnered with Domino's to deliver its new DRU Assist, an in-app artificial intelligence virtual assistant that allows customers to order a pizza using their voice.

Powered by Nuance's Nina, Domino's DRU Assist engages with customers in human-like conversation via text or speech recognition. Beyond ordering, DRU Assist can converse with the customer about menus, ingredients, store locations, and operating hours from within the Domino's app.

This "conversational commerce" is where Schwarz sees the banking industry heading.

"It's got to be consumer driven because consumers are now wanting to have better interfaces to the sorts of transactions that they want to do. They want that immediacy and they want to do it in a conversational way," he explained.

"They want to know, 'Hey, how much did I spend on Uber last week? Or when is my Telstra bill due?' and being able to do that and make that transaction happen in the environment they're in at that point in time.

"I think that's where things like voice biometrics will have a place because it secures the individual in having that conversation."

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