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Time to check in on voice biometrics

The applications for biometric identity verification are many and varied. Some, like contact centre operations, are obvious. Others, not so much. Take time and attendance tracking for example. Voice biometrics is now playing a vital role in the latest generation of workforce management systems. As vendors seek to differentiate their propositions with state-of-the-art applications, voice biometrics is helping savvy developers elevate their products above the competition. Time and attendance tracking (clocking on and off if you’re old school) might seem a little passé to some; reminiscent of old newsreel footage and analogue punch-cards. In reality, the mobile nature of today’s workforce means businesses need to know the whereabouts and wellbeing of their employees, for a variety of reasons. Those range from access and data security concerns, to personal safety and workforce management responsibilities. The increased adoption of biometrics mirrors the resurgence in demand for workforce management solutions across both private and public sector markets. Voice biometrics, often positioned as an enhanced security or authentication feature, is being offered by the more astute solution providers. Of course, there’s more to it than just time and attendance tracking.

Workforce management

The essence of workforce management is the efficient scheduling and deployment of human resources. The thing is, people can be unpredictable. So, managers need to be able to deal with a variety of unforeseen events (such as sickness and absence) when looking to resource facilities, produce goods and deliver services. Possibly the greatest challenge for workforce managers is not dealing with human resources, but with human nature. In some regions, this is felt most acutely within the public sector. In Zimbabwe, for example, government agencies have begun implementing biometric identity verification to mitigate ‘ghost working’. This fraudulent practice results in salaries, pensions and sundry funds being claimed or syphoned off by non-existent personnel. In other instances, public bodies have taken to biometrics as a means of stemming what’s known as ‘buddy stamping’. A practice where a colleague fraudulently presents a badge or ID card on behalf of an absent co-worker. In Italy, for example, the behaviour of these scoundrels (la Canaglia) is widespread enough to have gained the attention of the media and soiled the reputation of those who work honestly in public services.

Other applications

In related circumstances, universities and training establishments plagued with ‘stand-ins’ are using biometrics to ensure exams are taken by bona-fide students. It’s the same with online courses, where biometrics can provide the assurance that students taking tests are, in fact, who they claim to be. For temporary staff agencies, biometrics can also be used to verify that the person turning up for an assignment is the person scheduled for the job. The last of these has implications, not only for health and safety, but also for insurance and liability risks.

Why voice biometrics?

Whilst there is more than one biometric verification technology available, the nature of voice provides several cost and ease-of-use advantages. Consider the need for secure access to remote sites, for example. Alternative biometric technologies, such as face recognition and fingerprints, require the installation of some costly hardware at the point of presence, but not with voice. It’s the same for card readers or tokens, where installation and management can become burdensome. Furthermore, with voice, there are no images, passwords, or patterns that can be hacked or compromised, which means employees’ personal information remains private and secure. With voice biometrics, the only biometric that can be used remotely over the phone, there is no need for on-site installation. Employees who need to clock in with secure access at remote sites simply phone home (like ET). That’s a notable advantage, as calling via a smartphone app, linked to a workforce management solution, enables the fusion of access control with the automated administration of attendance, overlapping shifts, absences and holidays; all through the incorporation of biometric voice stamping. Employees can readily notify, modify and accept shifts, verify attendance and communicate absence; enabling the real-time management of deployed resources. For the employee, it’s as simple as dictating a voice note - much easier than remembering a passcode or PIN. For public bodies concerned with security issues and data privacy, these systems are far more secure than methods involving ID badges and passwords. They also speed up the approval time for requests, eliminate data entry and the use of paper in the human resources department. They can also improve the management of sudden absences, emergencies and availability. In particular, voice-based identity assurance systems can reduce the cost of management and infrastructure. Through the certainty of identifying workers via voice stamping, the reputations of those who work honestly in public administration can be assured. Useful Links: If you are thinking of introducing voice biometrics for authentication and verification in your business, and would like to discuss your requirements, contact one of our consultants today.

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