National Australia Bank says it has started to deploy a voice-recognition system that customers can use to authenticate themselves when paying credit card bills and carrying out other financial tasks over the phone. The bank worked on the service with telecommunications firm Telsta Corp. and communications-technology firm Salmat VeCommerce, both based in Australia. The rollout comes after an internal pilot that involved 2,000 bank employees, a bank spokesperson tells CardLine Global. Customers wanting to use the service must "register" a print of their voices with the bank. Voice recognition will make "customers' telephone banking experience much simpler, without the need to remember cumbersome passwords and PINs," the spokesperson says. Though the technology has potential, Matthew Sinclair, executive director of Australia-based Carpadium Consulting, tells CardLine Global that any bugs in the system, such as rejections of legitimate customers, could doom its popularity. "False negatives could present a public-relations problem if the system is rejecting too many customers when they are in fact who they say they are," he says. "As with all identity systems, the trick really is at the point of enrollment." According to Sinclair, capturing the initial voiceprint is the challenge. Doing so "over-the-counter at a branch could be problematic if [the bank] does not have a way to easily acquire the customer's voice," he says. "In an inbound-call scenario, it's obviously easier to capture the voiceprint, but there is still the question of making sure that the caller is really who they say they are." Biometrically based payment systems have a young and mixed history. Using mathematical representations of fingerprints to authenticate retail transactions has met with skepticism with consumers, for instance. 

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