Voice Authentication – An Essential Component of Chatbots and IoT services

You may already be familiar with the recent Alexa dollhouse shopping spree. A morning TV show covering the story of a six-year-old girl in Texas who accidentally ordered a dollhouse and four pounds of cookies through her parents’ Amazon Echo device also caused multiple Echo devices wake up and place the same order. There are currently two voice-security-2solutions to prevent this from happening; you can either disable voice purchasing altogether or alternatively set up a confirmation code that can be verbally input to the echo device to complete a purchase. Neither of these workarounds is 100% satisfactory. One method removes a pretty useful feature from the Echo device while the other has security issues especially if someone overhears you speaking the confirmation code. What the Amazon Echo and other emerging voice recognition services such as chatbots really need is voice biometric authentication.

For many consumers the Amazon Echo device is their first serious engagement with artificial intelligence and voice recognition. Yes Siri has been available on iPhones for years but the services accessed by Siri have been so limited it was little more than a gimmick. In contrast the voice services currently offered by Alexa are simple and quick to invoke with a voice command rather than having to reach for a mobile device or an app and include the ability to verbally select a radio station or music track, get a weather forecast or set an alarm or reminder. Yet while useful the services currently offered on Alexa are pretty basic compared to the more complex purchasing, banking and social media activities we regularly use our mobile devices for.

To move beyond these lightweight services to the delivery of more complex services via smart speakers or chatbots authentication will be required as it is today when doing mobile banking or purchases via a mobile app. Asking users to manually enter a password, use a finger print or visit an app to authenticate a purchase defeats the purpose of a hands free device. Instead voice biometrics will be the key feature that ensures services provided by smart speakers, chatbots and ultimately the IoT can be authenticated and remain friction free.

Voice biometrics isn’t without its own security issues. You only have one voice signature yet you can have multiple passwords. If your voice signvoice-securityature is compromised or hacked you have a problem. Active voice biometrics addresses this security issue by combining voice authentication with a pre-recorded phrase which acts as an additional layer of security. In the same way that banks and credit card companies currently flag up unusual credit card activity a further layer of frictionless security can be provided by analysing the context of the voice commend for example where and when the voice command was made.

Billions of IoT devices doesn’t mean billions of new screens, mobile apps and visual user interfaces all competing for our attention. Most of the services delivered by the IoT will be invisible initiated by a voice commands and only prompting a user when a decision is required. Voice will be the primary user interface for the IoT. In order to move beyond the lightweight IoT and voice services we have today to the delivery of more complex IoT and voice initiated processes voice authentication is a key capability. Pretty soon a voice signature will be as much part of your bank account security as your home address and pin number are today.



Google Assistant – Bye Bye Bloatware

Having unveiled Google Assistant at its I/O conference in May 2016 this week Google announced that the Google Assistant will be baked into its new Google Pixel smartphone. Mobile phone vendors have been working on personal assistants since almost the development of the first app. Your smartphone comes preinstalled with apps, such as a calendar, reminder, notes, password manager, family location and account status services. Sometimes referred to as bloatware, many of these apps are seldom used. Let’s face it if we could get rid of these apps we would. In addition mobile app downloads are declining. Unless you are a dedicated gamer most of us seldom download mobile apps. If you are a business trying to get customers to download your app good luck.

Today, four of the largest global IT organizations – Apple (Siri), Google (Google Now and Assistant), Amazon (Alexa) and Microsoft (Cortana) — offer speech recognition software. Long term, voice will become the dominant UI for interaction with mobile devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), for internet search and for triggering processes such as ordering a pizza, booking a flight or paying a bill. It won’t be necessary to download an airline or pizza company app. Initially chatbots will provide an interface for these services. Eventually it will be a fully featured personal assistant that replaces the need for mobile apps entirely. We are moving to a post app economy.

In future purchasing a mobile won’t be a decision on whether to choose Android or IoS or which app store you prefer. It’ll be a decision on what type of personal assistant you prefer from Google, Amazon or Apple and what services the assistants provide. For businesses the decision whether to deploy apps for Android or IoS will be replaced by providing customer engagement services that can be integrated to the personal assistant market.

The mobile app market started in July 2008, when Apple introduced the App Store. Now it is coming to an end.

The Chatbot Lawyer: Is this the Future of BPM?

The business process management suite (BPMs) has always had a difficult relationship with the user interface (UI). The broad spectrum of capabilities within the BPMs (business rules, business activity monitoring, process design and orchestration, data integration and content management) meant that when it came to UI design (mobile and desktop) the BPMs vendors were always playing catch-up with best practice web forms and business intelligence applications.

The emergence of chatbots and some compelling use cases such as DoNotPay, the world’s first robot lawyer, point towards a different future for the BPMs UI. DoNotPay is a chatbot lawyer that can provide legal assistance and dispute claims with parking tickets in New York and the UK, delayed flights or trains in the EU and claiming payment protection in insurance (PPI) in the UK. More recently the robot lawyer was updated with the ability to draft legal letters to local councils for urgent housing assistance.

A chatbot is a type of conversational agent or virtual assistant. A computer program designed to simulate an intelligent conversation with one or more human users via auditory or textual methods. Chatbots are integrated within the apps that customers actually want to use, within messaging apps such as WeChat and Messenger which act as the operating systems for the chatbots.

DoNotPay and other chatbots are underpinned by a procesdonotpays automation engine designed to execute tasks based on information provided by users textually or increasingly verbally using voice recognition. While today the DoNotPay services may be relatively simple workflow type processes it is not difficult to imagine that a chatbot in the near future will have the ability to handle more complex or nuanced legal or customer service issues that are managed using a BPMs or similar application.

The emergence of chatbots means we need to reconsider what we think of as the BPMs UI, especially for customer centric processes. Increasingly messaging services and eventually the internet of Things (IoT) will be the UI for process participation. Mobile BPM now means integration of process within apps that customers actually want to use (e.g. messaging services) rather than forcing users to download a business app.

The UI for process participation is changing with messaging applications and in the long term voice recognition emerging as the dominant process interaction methods.

The Chatbot Lawyer: Is this the Future of Customer Service?

Chatbots are poised to disrupt how organizations deliver customer self-service and already some exciting use cases have begun to emerge. DoNotPay announces itself as the world’s first robot lawyer. At the moment this chatbot lawyer can provide legal assistance and dispute claims with parking tickets in New York and the UK, delayed flights or trains in the EU and claiming payment protection in insurance (PPI) in the UK. More recently the robot lawyer was updated with the ability to draft legal letters to local councils for urgent housing assistance. The chat bot has negated 160,000 parking fines since its launch in 2015. It doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to see similar chatbots for requesting customer service, ordering pizza, booking a car service or a flight.

In my previous posts I discussed the emergence of chatbots as a customer service channel. Chatbots provide an opportunity for organizations to engage with customers in a way that overcomes many of the limitations and costs associated with developing a business app.

The chatbot lawyer I think illustrates a few key things:robot-lawyer

  • A move away from relying on a business mobile app or a web page when we want to engage with an organization or a service
  • Chatbots won’t just deliver information, they’ll deliver services
  • The emerging role of messaging services as a vendor agnostic customer engagement channel
  • The use of process automation to underpin chatbots and deliver services Chatbot BPM

If, as many believe, self-service is the future of customer service then chatbots represent the next step in self-service evolution.

Will Chatbots Signal the End of the Intelligent Virtual Assistant?

Is the Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) market over before it has even begun? Does the emergence of chatbots mean that the IVA is destined to go the way of Vista, Betamax, the LaserDisc and Nest (only kidding) as another brave tech failure?

IVAs attempt to humanize web self-service by delivering knowledge and information to customers via a human like interface. IVAs can be embedded within a web page or mobile app. The attraction for businesses is obvious. Unlike a customer service representative IVAs can serve thousands of customers at once, they are available 24/7, across all channels and the experience is consistent. Many organizations, particularly in the retail sector are today using IVAs as an opportunity for differentiation and a visual extension of their basic web self-service technologies.

The problem for the IVA market is that chatbots have the potential to offer the same feature set with fewer of the negative overheads. Similar to IVAs chatbots


Will Chatbots replace IVAs?

enable users to interact via text or using speech recognition. Speech recognition has the potential to transform the self-service user experience, making it a more natural experience and most importantly hands free. Speech recognition can deliver service to users anywhere and in any situation or context. IVA vendors have recently augmented their solutions with speech recognition capabilities to offer voice driven information search and retrieval such as video on demand. Already retailers have begun to explore the potential of voice driven self-service with for example Domino’s Pizza introducing Dom their virtual voice ordering assistant.

The problem for IVAs is that they expect the web page and mobile app to remain the dominant customer engagement interfaces. As I have discussed in previous posts users are not downloading business apps.  In addition artificial intelligence and speech recognition threaten the future dominance of text based web search and the text based company web page.

Chatbots will be able to provide all of the features of an IVA without having to download an app or go to a web page and invoke the IVA client. Most importantly they’ll be built within apps that customers (e.g. Kik, WeChat, Messenger) are actually using providing convenience and simplicity that is the cornerstone of successful customer service.

Chatbots: A New Customer Service Channel

In bricks and mortar retail we have the concept of footfall, which is the number of people entering a shop or shopping area over a given time frame. Businesses pay higher rents for higher footfall locations. In order for organizations to engage with customers they have to locate themselves where customers are likely to hang out. This was the main reason why businesses across all industries rushed to build business apps. If customers are using apps we must build an app. As I discussed in my previous post, for a variety of reasons mobile business apps have failed big time. Customers aren’t downloading business apps. If mobile apps are part of your customer engagement mix they aren’t getting any footfall.

In addition customer service via mobile apps is for the most part pitiful. Most of today’s business apps are deigned to sell not serve. Many business apps throw the user out of the native app into a browser if you want to reach customer service. As for self-service, case management and notifications via a mobile app, forget about it. No wonder few people download business apps.

The emergence of chatbots however provides an opportunity for organizations to engage with customers that overcome many of the limitations of the business app. A chatbot is a type of conversational agent, a computer program designed to simulate an intelligent conversation with one or more human users via auditory or textual methods. Chatbots are integrated within the apps that customers actually want to use. They are integrated within messaging apps such as WeChat, Kik and Messenger which act as the operating systems for the chatbots. Chatbots thus solve the business app problem, enabling customers to engage with a business without downloading an app or going to a website.

Perhaps most importantly, chatbots also reflect the robot 5emergence of artificial intelligence or speech recognition as a customer service user interface.  Artificial intelligence is slowly creeping into our everyday lives. Today, four of the largest global IT organizations – Apple (Siri), Google (Google Now), Amazon (Alexa) and Microsoft (Cortana) — offer speech recognition software. Customers will be able to interact with the chatbot using either text or voice recognition software. Long term, voice recognition software will become the dominant UI for customer engagement and well as for interaction with the Internet of Things (IoT).

Chatbots represent a new customer engagement channel that will soon co-exist with today’s other multichannel options of voice, chat, email, social and self-service. Chatbots will initially act as a self-service interface with simple escalation options. Eventually chatbots could replace 1-800 numbers and Facebook (for Messenger) is currently providing developers with API tools to build chatbots and Live Chat web plug-ins for business clients.

In April 2016 Facebook announced, at its annual F8 Developer conference, that its Messenger app was to become a platform that allows businesses to communicate with users via chatbots.  Customer service is firmly in Facebook’s sights with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stating “We think you should be able to text message a business like you would send to a friend and get a quick response,” The chatbot strategy has also been endorsed by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella who stated, “bots are the new apps.”

Mobile customer service is terrible. Customers aren’t downloading business apps. Chatbots provide a new opportunity to address both of these issues.

Are You Sure You Want to Build that Business App?

Most smartphone users download 0 apps per month. That’s right zero, zip, zilch, nada. Sixty five percent of US smart phone users download no apps per month. Yet the time we spend using apps continues to rise. The problem for many businesses is the vast majority of time spent in apps is on social media, messaging and entertainment applications, not engaging with companies. My local supermarket has an app, so has my insurance company, my optician and some of my favorite clothes retailers. I would never think of downloading them though.


Have Business Apps Failed?

The logic behind building business apps was understandable. Business want to engage with their customers, customers are using apps, therefore we need to build an app. We need to hang out where our customers are hanging out. There were however a number of problems with this logic:

It’s Personal – Smartphone and Mobile devices are for the most part personal devices. A private space away from the work environment, for communicating with close friends and families, for participating in hobbies, music, TV and movies. For the things we are passionate about. For the most part people aren’t passionate about businesses. Do we want businesses invading this personal private space?

Storage Issues – I seem to get a message from Apple every day telling me I’ve exceeded my storage limit.  Do you want to waste storage on business apps? If you need to free up storage the business apps are the first to go.

Most Business Apps are Useless – Let’s face it most business apps are useless. They are deigned to sell not serve. After all this time most business apps can’t do customer service right, throwing the user out of the native app into a browser if you want to reach customer service.

Security – what information are you sharing with businesses? – We are more paranoid than ever about sharing personal information. Do we want to share location and contact details with companies? How much personal information do we want to share with businesses?

Inconvenient – This might be a first world problem but apps are just a little bit inconvenient. It’s time consuming to have to download an app and to create another user ID and password that will be forgotten in minutes. Interstitials encouraging users to download a mobile app are also frustrating for web users and can result in huge abandonment rates.

Ultimately customers aren’t using business apps. So if you are thinking of building a business app you are probably 2 or 3 years too late. You are merely copying rather than trying to leapfrog the competition. So what’s the solution? To get a potential answer lets go back to the start of this post and to the logic behind business apps, businesses want to engage with customers and customers are mobile, so let’s build an app. But if they aren’t downloading apps how do you engage with mobile customers? The solution is that we engage with customers inside the apps they are actually using, for example messaging apps. And a potential solution has emerged in the form of chatbots.

In my next posts I’ll take a look at chatbots and their role as a next generation customer service portal and their wider impact on mobile devices.