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.

Does CRM have a major role in the Internet of Things? No

For several years Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications have attempted to sharp elbow their way into the heart of the enterprise. The CRM application has capitalised on the fact that customer experience has emerged as a significant business differentiator requiring organizations to deliver consistency and continuity in how they manage customer data from opportunity, through on-boarding to customer support. It’s not surprising then that CRM vendors see the Internet of Things (IoT) as another technology to absorb into its ecosystem.

So will CRM continue its enterprise land grab and does it have a major role to play in the IoT? For a variety of reasons I will explain below the answer has to be no.

The Future of the IoT is Services not Devices
CRM vendors have a device centric view of the IoT. Their argument goes that the CRM application already manages our “things” such as loyalty cards, our mobile phones and vehicles and the IoT will simply be a continuation of this. This vision of the future has been driven by the growth of consumer IoT devices such as wearables and smart home automation technologies. It is a mistake however to view the IoT in terms of devices. The real power in IoT is in the data created by the sensors themselves. Organizations that can utilize this data and deliver services based on this data will dominate the IoT market.

Already some of the most successful commercial IoT solutions are providing services rather than simply devices to consumers. Examples include in-car telematics, used toCRM IoT 2 monitor driver performance and to adjust insurance premiums and heart implants that send data to physicians that can be analysed to identify any slowing of heart rhythm or rapid heartbeats. In the public realm, IoT will be used within Smart Cities to provide services to constituents that will, for example, reduce congestion, optimize energy use and support public safety. The common theme in all of these examples is that the IoT is being used to provide services with little or no input required by the individual. The IoT and the devices themselves are for the most part invisible. The vast bulk of IoT activity will be invisible, machine to machine not device to customer or vendor.

Many of the commercial and smart home technologies we see today are really just gimmicks as already available sensor and Wi-Fi technology wait on other essential components of the IoT ecosystem to catch up that will enable IoT driven services to be launched. In this IoT services ecosystem the role of CRM will be limited.

Data Loses its Value within Seconds
As previously discussed the real power of the IoT is in the data created by the sensors. The majority of data created by sensors will begin to lose value within seconds of being generated. Weather data, traffic congestion, pollution information, smoke and fire detection, location data and personal security information is constantly changing requiring real time analysis and complex event processing rather than storage in a CRM system. In this context the CRM application becomes merely a system of record providing a history of what happened. The IoT requires real time, not sometime, analytics and decisions.

The Future of Customer Service is Self-Service – Not Assisted Service
The future of customer service is self-service not assisted service. In 2015 web self-service overtook all other customer service channels. Intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) use is seeing rapid adoption across multiple industry sectors. Mobile phone vendors have been working on personal assistants since almost the development of the first app. Your mobile device comes preinstalled with apps such as calendar, reminder, notes and a ticket and boarding pass wallet and these mobile capabilities will soon be augmented with speech recognition. Today, four of the largest global IT organizations — Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon— offer speech recognition software. 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. It will be the user interface for IoT services. And 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.

CRM applications are on the wrong side of the self v assisted service equation, having only a major role to play in assisted customer service.

Predictive and Proactive Customer Service is not a Business Opportunity
Another argument in favour of CRM and the IoT is that together they will deliver improved customer service. The expectation is that organizations will be able to offer proactive customer service based on alerts or status notifications from the smart devices and sensors. Again this takes a device rather than services view of the IoT.

The scenario of smart devices automatically triggering support services and outbound calls from customer service agents will certainly occur in support of high value products and services. No organization however is going to hire additional customer service agents to provide proactive customer service for low value products and services. In addition customers will be suspicious of assisted proactive service believing it’ll be used as a sales call and also may not appreciate the interruption.

We already obtain proactive customer service. For example our mobile phones, laptops gaming platforms are all automatically updated with the latest SW or firmware releases. None of us pay for this. For the most part proactive customer service will be automatic and invisible. Proactive customer service is not a business opportunity and is merely a cost of doing business in the 21st century.

Privacy Concerns will hold back Sales and Marketing
Another key benefit of IoT is the ability for vendors to track who is buying their products and how they are being used. This has the potential to transform marketing and to improve customer segmentation and targeting. The elephant in the room is however privacy. Good luck getting individual customers and businesses to allow you to mine and analyse their data. Assuming data access permission is granted what is in it for customers? Instead of cold calls will they instead get hot calls and more pushy sales reps?

A Step Too Far
The IoT is a step too far for CRM. The core components of IoT solutions will be data streaming, complex event processing, process automation technologies, business rules engines, voice recognition and biometrics. CRM systems will capture event histories and manage some IoT devices but this will be a peripheral role. CRM is suited for business today, it is a 00’s technology, it may not however be suited for the IoT driven businesses of the future.

Press Once for Process

It looks like our homes could soon be invaded by a swarm of buttons. Earlier this year (2015) we had the launch of Amazon dash and now we have flic. Flic takes dash a step further and is a wireless smart button that can be quickly programmed to let you play music, make calls or even order a pizza, all at the press of a button. What dash and flick have in common is that with the press of a button the user is triggering or starting a process. With dash it is the process of placing and executing an order for a consumable product from the Amazon store or in the case of flic trigger a food delivery process.

Press Once for Process

There are other companies out there such as IFTTT looking to simplify how we execute day to day processes and optimize how we interact with mobile applications. In fact it is possible to connect Flic to IFTTT and at the press of a flic button post a Facebook or twitter update. Both dash and flic are obviously Internet of Things (IoT) devices. What they begin to illustrate is the critical relationship between the IoT and process. There is no point in smart devices collecting data and monitoring your environment if we cannot rapidly take action on insights obtained.

Yet dash and flic don’t have a long term future. Why do we need buttons to place orders or trigger processes when we could use our voice? Today, three of largest global IT organizations — Apple, Google and Microsoft — offer voice recognition software. Apple was the first mover with Siri. Google followed with its own natural language user interface, Google Now, and finally Microsoft came to market with Cortana. Why do we have this sudden interest in voice recognition? The answer is the IoT.

With the iOS 8 operating system, Siri became completely hands free, with the “Hey Siri” command replacing initiation of Siri via the home button. In addition, Siri began to integrate with the Apple IoT HomeKit features. At iOS 9 Apple have taken Siri capabilities further putting new functionality into the HomeKit, including smarter Siri controls and support for new device types. Siri and thus voice recognition is a key part of the Apple IoT strategy with voice commands being used to trigger simple processes such as dimming the lights or adjusting the thermostat. It does not take a great leap of the imagination to expect that we will soon be able to ask Siri to book a flight, a meal at a restaurant or to transfer money into a bank account, all hands free and without accessing an app or pressing a button.

So while flic and the Amazon Dash button may have a limited shelf life they do point towards emerging methods of process initiation that will eventually coalesce around voice. In fact Amazon, as well as having the Dash Button, also offer a Wand device that uses voice recognition to place order requests. With so many potential IoT devices, sensors and services, voice control provides a simpler, quicker and more convenient method of interaction with the IoT rather than an app, a UI or a button.

BPM Everywhere

If you’ve been reading this blog you’ll be aware that I believe that Business Process Management (BPM) technologies will have a crucial role to play in the emerging Internet of Things market. Future BPME-frontcoverStrategies have now published a book on this subject entitled BPM Everywhere and it includes a chapter by myself “The Internet of Things Will Be Invisible”.

This chapter builds on some of my recent blog articles that propose that the IoT will be for the most part an invisible part of or daily lives and that two technologies BPM and Voice recognition will be key to make this happen.

Amazon Dash – A Gimmick but an Important Step in the Evolution of the Internet of Things

To be perfectly honest when I saw the announcement I, like many others, thought it was an April fool. No one shops for groceries on an individual basis. The implications for the environment would be horrendous if we did. Most of us on a budget also like to know the price of things before we decide to buy. Then there’s the issue of Wi-Fi reliability and battery life.

Despite these drawbacks Amazon Dash however represents an important step in the evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT). Here we have a smart device linked to business processes. A push of a button triggers automatic payment and logistics processes that ultimately lead to the delivery of an item to your door.

At the moment, discussion of the commercial IoT has focused on the devices or things themselves rather than the services that can be triggered by connecting sensors and devices to the Internet. Many of the commercial and smart home technologies we see today are really just gimmicks as already available sensor and Wi-Fi technology wait on other essential components of the IoT ecosystem to catch up. When we start thinking of the commercial IoT not in terms of devices, but instead in terms of services that could be triggered through connection to the Internet, more compelling use cases start to emerge.
Amazon dash is different. It is focused on delivering an IoT service not an IoT device.

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