Open Sesame

Voice Authentication

We all must have read Alibaba and 40 thieves from our childhood days, a story filled with fascinating details about the merchant’s exploits in the deserts. What holds our special interest is the magic cave that used to respond to a verbal password “Open Sesame”, thereby providing a gateway to a room filled with incredible riches.

Knowingly or unknowingly, Alibaba had laid the foundation for Voice Based Authentication with devices many millennia ago. While Alibaba himself has today morphed into an e-commerce behemoth, will his magic words “Open Sesame” be left far behind??!! We don’t think so. As the technology industry is going through its umpteenth churn and people are looking at various options to simplify interactions between systems and users, Voice Based control is gaining continuous traction.

Figure this, today if one wants to transact with his banking app, he needs to whip out his mobile, unlock the device, open the app, provide his password, select the menu, input transaction details, respond to security questions, enter his OTP, confirm the transaction and log out of the application!! Too many steps to be done for one single fund transfer. While mobile has shrunk the user interface and made things more topical or relevant, what it has not yet done completely is make the user experience more fluid and easy. It is still littered with many unwanted roadblocks that needs to be removed to make each interaction a pleasure and natural.

In the race to relevance, Siri, Alexa, Google Now, Cortana have morphed into virtual assistants or “Bots” that not only tell you the weather, but can also be trained to perform meaningful transactions on your behalf, without touching the phone. All the user needs to tell his phone would be “Siri, Send Rs. 5000 to Mr X” or “Siri, Check my Salary Account Balance”. That’s it! Siri would analyze and understand your request, convert the instruction into text, parse the text into commands that can be understood by your banking app and pass on these commands via APIs. Connection to the banking app happens intrinsically and authorization is based on your voice pattern!!

Bots, an extension of operating systems in the phones, are becoming smarter, being able to identify the context and connect the underlying app that needs to be invoked for fulfillment. Bots are going to rule the roost by acting as our proxies. They will change the way we search, we transact, and we communicate. They are so intimately woven into the devices, that the divide between hardware and software is being blurred into oblivion. Bots are invisible version of internet explorers’ and other browsers. If our generation discovered the world using browser screens, the next generation is going to talk their way through the digital maze.

Users would be able to setup default banks that they prefer transacting with or instruct bots to access a particular account based on transaction types. For ex: – Bill Payments to be done from Citi or Grocery payments to be done from HSBC. In the long run, with Voice, one doesn’t even need to download the banking app, as the interaction has suddenly become interface less. It opens up a different level of interaction with the bank’s systems directly, bypassing traditional access points.

Human beings were meant to converse via voice. Forms and fields were introduced for administrative reasons rather than for any usable value. With Voice Banking, the power is given back to the customer. He needs to speak and he will be heard! And who knows, his pot of gold might be delivered by the BOT!