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.

 

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Why Robot? – Why Robotics and AI are Disrupting Business Process Management

2016 was the year AI and robotics went mainstream. We saw the emergence of chatbots and bot lawyers. Voice recognition went from something fun and frivolous on our mobile devices to delivering useful services via devices such as Amazon Echo and Google home. AI and robotics are now set to disrupt multiple industries and to change the very way we interact with the internet.

robot-santa-dreamstime

Why Robot? AI, Bots & BPM

When they first emerged Business Process Management Suites (BPMs) and workflow technologies were disruptive technologies, transforming the delivery and efficiency of business processes. As we come to the end of 2016 the BPM industry itself is becoming disrupted through the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics technologies. This year for example mainstream BPM vendors began to acquire smaller Robotic Process Automation (RPA) organizations highlighting a growing awareness or maybe panic within the BPM industry that robotics and AI is set to fundamentally transform how we design, execute and interact with business processes.

At the moment RPA and BPM applications are complementary technologies. RPA is used to deliver the rapid automation of simple, repetitive desktop based business process activities and address legacy application integration issues while BPM and Case Management are used to deliver the end to end optimization of key business processes.

Today RPA deployment is often a tactical decision while BPM and Case Management projects are more strategic decisions. Yet this won’t always be the case. RPA and Artificial Intelligence technology has exposed the flaws with today’s BPM technologies and rather than nibble at the edges or the carcass of the process automation market RPA is set to consume a bigger portion. RPA technologies are successful and are disrupting the BPM market because they address three key issues with today’s BPM suites:

Process Modelling

The stated benefits of process modelling and process standards are dubious. Process modelling standards such as BPMN(2) and CMMN often appear to deliver benefits for the BPM business analyst rather than for the actual BPM customer. Process standards frequently act as a barrier to BPM adoption adding increased training costs and complexity for prospective customers. The costs associated with BPMN and CMMN outweigh the benefits.

RPAs eliminate process modelling and offer an alternative way of designing processes using a watch, learn, do approach that is more intuitive and can be quickly adopted and understood by RPA users. In the near future processes could be optimized by linking together multiple RPA bots with the process participant or employee deciding which bot to invoke at a particular stage in the process.

Integration

The professional services costs associated with integrating the BPMs to third party applications often consumes a huge part of the budget of a BPM or process optimization project. Robotic solutions however can be implemented with limited assistance from IT. Robotic software can work with most underlying applications with the interaction occurring through the user interface. While maybe not as graceful as an API based integration the benefits in terms of cost and speed of the watch, learn, do approach in many cases outweigh the negatives.

Speed of Deployment and ROI

Many BPM and process optimization projects can take several months or even years to complete with tangible ROI delivered much later. Lower training and adoption costs as well as simpler third party integration mean that even significant 100 step RPA processes can be analyzed and automated within two weeks, delivering rapid ROI. Businesses using RPA approaches to process automation can fail fast, learn fast and innovate fast.

Robots are addressing the weaknesses of today’s BPM solutions. AI and robotics will have an impact across industry. 2016 was the year the BPM market got disrupted.

© Peter Whibley, intelligentprocessapps.com, 2012-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Peter Whibley and intelligentprocessapps.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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.

Netflix customer service? Almost, but not quite.

For a few days I’ve been struggling to cast Netflix from my iPad to the Chromecast device attached to my TV. Being reasonably techie I made sure I was running the latest SW releases on both Netflix and Chromecast. I also tried using an iPhone and a different iPad but with no success. Last night I had enough (I’m in the middle of a “Making a Murderer” binge) so I decided to contact customer service.

To my pleasant surprise I found out that it was possible to call the Netflix help centre directly from their app using a VoIP call. The response time by the agent was quick as netflixwell, less than 30 seconds. So far, so good. However as I had made some initial attempts to correct the problem myself the tier one agent was unable to provide a fix and said that she would have to escalate the issue. This however is where the customer service journey fell apart. Instead of transitioning me to another service representative online she provided be with a landline number. A US based landline number. The problem is I’m located in the UK.

In the multichannel or omnichannel business environment of today organizations must consider the end to end customer service journey and the transitions or escalations between channels that are sometimes necessary in order to resolve a problem. These transitions should be as frictionless or effortless for the customer as possible. In my case Netflix dropped the ball. Their sterling efforts to make it easy for customers to contact them, their in-app customer service channel and their excellent customer response times were in vain because they hadn’t considered or optimized how they handle customer escalations.

So when it comes to Netflix customer service it’s almost, but not quite. I still haven’t made that call and I’m still having Chromecast problems.

The Future of Self-Service; Virtual Assistants, Speech Recognition and the Internet of Things

Introduction
When is the last time you visited a bank or even talked to a bank representative? When is the last time you contacted a travel agent? Where previously we’d have used a travel agent many of us now prefer to research and book the individual components of our holiday ourselves. The history of the internet has been a story of personal empowerment. Empowered customers, especially younger demographics, are today more than happy to resolve problems for themselves valuing the convenience, speed and anonymity offered by frictionless self-service experiences.

In 2015 leading analysts indicated that web self-service interactions overtook all other channels and that survey respondents reported using the FAQ pages on a company’s website more than speaking with an agent over the phone. The future of customer service is thus quite clearly self-service. However what is the future for self-service itself?

Intelligent Virtual Assistants
Intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) use is seeing rapid adoption across multiple industry sectors. IVAs attempt to humanize web self-service by delivering knowledge and information to customers via a human like interface. 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.

However the predominant IVA experience today of typing in questions and receiving spoken answers via a computer generated assistant is unsatisfactory, unrealistic and, in my opinion, slightly creepy. Having a computer designed, cartoonish image acting as the face of your organization is also a risk. As a result many organizations, particularly in the retail sector are using IVAs as an opportunity for differentiation and a visual extension of their basic web self-service technologies rather than as a key customer engagement channel.

We are still at the nascent state of IVA development. The next step in its development will be to make the customer experience more realistic. This means replacing the requirement for users to type questions with speech recognition.

Speech Recognition
Today, four of the largest global IT organizations — Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon— offer speech recognition software. Apple was the first mover with Siri. Google followed with its own natural language user interface, Google Now, Microsoft came to market with Cortana and most recently Amazon has released its voice-controlled personal assistant, Alexa. So why do we have this sudden interest in voice recognition? The answer lies in both self-service and the internet of things (IoT).

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. Initially we will see IVA vendors augmenting 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.

future iot
WSS and the Internet of Things
Self-service will move beyond voice driven information search and retrieval to deliver the ability to trigger and interact with processes using speech.

Mistakenly many view the IoT in terms of smart devices; in terms of smart thermostats, kettles, fridges and wearables. However 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. In-car telematics is now widely used in the insurance industry today to monitor driver performance and to adjust insurance premiums accordingly. In medicine, heart implants are being used that send data to physicians that can be analyzed 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.

As humans we do not have the capacity to engage with huge numbers of IoT devices. Do we really want to be alerted and prompted on a regular basis by multiple frivolous IoT devices all competing for our attention? As a result the IoT will be almost invisible, delivering services for us in the background to our lives and interrupting us only when a decision is required or a result has been achieved. Successful IoT solutions will remove complexity from our lives rather than add to it.

The trigger and interaction method for all of these IoT services will be speech. With so many potential IoT devices and services, voice control provides a simpler, quicker and more convenient method of interaction rather than an app and a UI.

The Personal Virtual Assistant
Self-service will eventually break free of the enterprise and become a key part of our personal lives. Mobile phone vendors have been working on personal assistants since almost the development of the first app. Your iPhone comes preinstalled with apps such as Apple pay, calendar, reminder, notes and a ticket and boarding pass wallet. In addition Android devices arrive with a password manager, family location services and account status apps. Despite the fact that there are millions of apps available the majority of us use only a few apps daily. It appears that app fatigue is starting to set in. Siri, Google Now and Cortana will be the catalyst for turning these apps, many seldom used and sometimes referred to derogatively as bloatwear, into something more useful and easier to use.

The personal virtual assistant will be the ultimate self-service technology that brings together multiple technologies including speech recognition, knowledge management, wearables, IoT, complex event processing and artificial intelligence. This is imminent. Today for example Microsoft Cortana, if approved by the user, can scan your email to see if you have a flight coming up, then use the information to alert you when it’s time to leave for the airport.

Service scheduling, booking a restaurant or flight, insurance renewals, ensuring your finance products are on the best rate of interest, price comparisons, personal security and health monitoring — all of these are important yet mundane processes we perform on a daily basis that most of us would be happy to outsource to a personal assistant. In effect the personal assistant starts to act as an airbag for our lives, ready to step in when we need it, not constantly competing for our attention.

Conclusion
Self-service is the future of customer service and its evolution is inextricably linked to developments in speech analytics and the IoT. In the IoT world speech will be the most convenient gateway to access information and services. Self-service will go beyond the simple search and delivery of information to the delivery of more complex customer service processes.

Ultimately we are looking at a post app world where information and data from multiple sources including devices is combined to deliver services. Then when you need information or a service you’ll just ask for it.

The Internet of Things will be Invisible

The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it. Mark Weiser

In my previous post I wrote about how the IoT will be for the most part invisible, acting as an airbag for our lives, ready to step in when we need it, freeing us from the internet and not constantly competing for our attention. Invisibility means not having a user interface (UI). Successful IoT solutions will be those that remove complexity from our lives rather than add to it with another UI that demands our attention. Two technologies will be key to delivering the invisibility of the IoT: voice recognition and process automation.

Voice Recognition

invisible_manIf the internet of things is to be invisible we need some method to interact with it. That’s were voice recognition comes in. Despite having an iPhone, apart from asking Siri a few stupid questions when I’m bored, I seldom use Siri. So if like me you were wondering why two of the largest IT companies on the planet, Google and Apple, have been focusing on speech recognition the recent launch of iOS8 will have provided some clarity.

At iOS 8 Siri has become completely hands free with the “Hey Siri” command replacing initiation of Siri via the home button. In addition from iOS 8 Siri begins to integrate with the apple home kit features and Apple have stated that Siri users will soon be able to issue a single command “and have the lights turn on in specific rooms, the thermostat adjust the temperature and the garage door open.” So here we have Apple confirming that voice recognition will drive the internet of things.

“Hey Siri” follows on from the introduction of Google’s “OK Google” search command on Google Now earlier this year. While both the “OK Google” and “Hey Siri” commands may seem trivial or frivolous features, voice initiation of our interactions with smart devices will be a critical component of personal IoT solutions.

Process Automation

Invisibility not only relates to how we engage or interact with the IoT but also to the processes that will be triggered from the smart devices on our behalf. We are still in the foothills when it comes to the IoT. To date discussion of the personal IoT has focused heavily on smart homes and wearables. Many of these basic early sense and respond IoT solutions will turn out to be simply gimmicks or at most niche applications. Most of us regularly only use 4 or 5 apps on our mobile phones. Are we really going to spend significant sums replacing the locks on our doors to make them smart? My mum and dad never worked out how to program their video recorder and have managed perfectly fine. This is simple cost benefit analysis. The cost of many smart home devices and the time required to configure them will outweigh the benefits they’ll provide.

But what if we could go “Hey Siri can you put this coat up for sale on ebay?” or “Hey Siri can you book me a flight to London on March 17th?”. What if we could say “OK google can you get me a house insurance quote?” or “OK google can you transfer my credit card balance to the lowest possible interest rate?”. What if we could make these voice commands anywhere in our homes or while we are on the move? These are mundane yet sometimes essential activities and processes we’d all love to be able to outsource. These solutions will require a mix of voice recognition, smart devices and process automation. The data generated by IoT devices is only of use if it is connected to processes. Process automation can put the data generated by smart devices to work and deliver significant value to the end user.siri

Following acquisition by Google, Nest CEO Tony Fadell told WIRED “Both companies believe in letting the technology do the hard work behind the scenes so that people can get on with their lives”. This statement along with Apple’s iOS8 Siri enhancements confirm an understanding among the leading tech organizations that IoT solutions will be mostly invisible and that both voice recognition and process automation will be crucial components.

It Was, Is and Always Will Be about Empowerment

The Computer Says How?

Does anyone pay for mobile ring tones anymore? A few years ago it was usually the first thing I tried to do when I got a new mobile.  Now I can change my ring tone in seconds and choose from my own music catalogue.

Does anyone still rent DVDs? We’ve moved from watching films in a cinema, to watching them at home, to being able to choose from a catalogue of movies and TV programs and stream them on demand. Each step has been about increasing consumer choice and providing more options about what, how and when we choose to consume.  The music industry has followed a similar journey of increased consumer choice. Successful IT companies don’t deliver new features; successful IT companies give customers more choices. The iPhone would have been just another expensive phone were it not for the explosion in choice driven by the App Store.

Chocie = EmpowermentEmpowerment…

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