While many agree that usernames and passwords should give way to more advanced identity management, progress toward this goal has been extremely slow.
But there may be an opportunity to use personal Internet-connected devices to speed the migration away from traditional passwords by detecting the unique patterns of each user.
"As we move forward deeper into wearables, the more these devices become 'yours,'" said Jay Wilpon, senior vice president of natural language research at Interactions, a communications technology company.
Interactions is using internal speech recognition and other technology from AT&T Watson to offer a range of speech, touch and text-enabled interfaces for connected devices. Interactions calls its technology bundle the "Interface of Things." The combined technology has been available for less than two weeks, and is not yet deployed outside of AT&T.
Devices such as mobile phones and wearables "all have GPS, so we could advance the traditional questions, such as your mother's maiden name, to something like, 'what was the most recent mall you visited?'" Wilpon said.
Interactions will offer licensing deals to developers and equipment manufacturers to use Watson as part of cloud-based, on-premise or embedded identity technology. Developers can use application programming interfaces to build their own uses, or they can access products Interactions develops, Wilpon said. "We see ourselves at multiple levels of the food chain."
Card issuers, retailers and other payment companies could add a speech recognition interface to a smartphone app that uses voice commands to execute transactions. "You could also say something like 'pay my Visa bill,'" Wilpon said.
Voice can serve as a primary authentication method even for in-person transactions. For example, a voice signature could replace a written signature for credit card purchases at the point of sale, Wilpon said.
The card networks plan to replace passwords in e-commerce, and the FIDO Alliance is also moving to eradicate passwords through technology such as biometric fingerprint readers. A number of new mobile payment initiatives that rely on Touch ID, the fingerprint authentication system built into Apple's most recent iPhones.
The widespread adoption of voice biometrics or voice-commanded payments will take some time, said Tim Sloane, a vice president of payments innovation for Mercator Advisory Group.
The most likely use of biometrics will be to provide one layer of access control, with fingerprint identity being probable version. But there are lingering challenges with biometrics, Sloane said.
"There's some concern over someone's voice changing, or their heartbeat changing," he said, adding it's also hard to document false positives or other performance metrics for biometric authentication.