Julia Schubert

SpeechID: The simple way of identification

Since IFA 2018, telecom customers can identify themselves by SpeechID. But how does it work? I took the opportunity at the fair to talk to Caroline Clemens, an expert in voice biometrics at Deutsche Telekom, about the technical details. 

Caroline Clemens (left) explains the SpeechID to Julia Schubert.

Caroline Clemens (left) explains the SpeechID to Julia Schubert.

Ms. Clemens, how does SpeechID work?

Caroline Clemens: The voiceprint is biometric and consists of two components. On the one hand, it includes the anatomical components, for example the shape of the mouth and throat. On the other hand, SpeechID reflects the behaviour and the way of speaking, i.e. intonation and articulation, tongue movements or accentuation.

What changes for the customer? 

Caroline Clemens: Until now, customers could identify themselves with customer data at the hotline. Now, identification is easier and faster. It is also more practical, because no further data or passwords are necessary. 

What happens when you fall ill?

Caroline Clemens: During later identification on the phone, the SpeechID is tolerant of variance - so it's no problem if you are tired or have a cold. The procedure is simple and safe, and as unique as a fingerprint.

How can I create my SpeechID?

Caroline Clemens: The service was launched for the IFA 2018. From now on you can call 0800 0800 358 and store your SpeechID.  

And how is the voice saved? 

Caroline Clemens: A sequence of numbers is created from all the characteristics, a so-called hash. A hash can be imagined as a one-way street: a speech file cannot be created from the hash is reverse, and only this sequence of numbers is stored at Deutsche Telekom. 

But what if someone wants to steal that number?

Caroline Clemens: No one would try that, because the mere sequence of numbers is useless. No conclusions can be drawn about the person and their characteristics. When a call is made, a new sequence of numbers is created and checked for similarity with the stored SpeechID. 

Imagine it being like a rose. You can get the scent from a rose, but you can't make a rose from the scent again. Likewise, the sequence of numbers is forgery-proof for voice imitators - they may adopt the same position and imitate the type of person - but not the anatomy. 

Are there other providers that offer voice recognition like the SpeechID?

Caroline Clemens: Telekom is the first telecommunications company in Germany to offer this service. Deutsche Telekom customers can use these for customer hotlines. For landlines this is 0800 3301000, for mobile phones 0800 3302202.