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Biometrics’ Place in the Embedded Industry

October 25, 2018

I just returned from the four-day Money 20/20 event in Las Vegas. The show covers the overlap of Money and Technology including FinTech, Payment, Ecommerce and more. It had tens of thousands of attendees, over 3,500 companies, and 400 startups and lots of starpower including Richard Branson, Shaquille O’Neil, Akon, and yours truly speaking on a biometrics panel.

I walked the show floor to find the latest news in embedded biometrics and to better understand the choice between embedded and cloud based biometrics in the fintech/money space. I was impressed by how biometrics has moved into the mainstream conversation. Before mentioning the other companies I talked to, I’ll kick off with Sensory, my company.

Sensory’s focus on AI and biometrics has always been on the embedded side. We believe in data privacy and we think the best way to accomplish that is through keeping in the hands and control of the user. On a less promotional front there is also a strategic reason we focus on embedded, and that’s because the industry giants are really good at cloud based and unconstrained AI tasks, and they often give it away for free, so we are focused on a place where the Googles and Amazons of the world can be our customers and not just our competitors. On the last day of Money 20/20, Sensory introduced TrulySecure 4.0, a fusion of face and voice biometrics with improved accuracy, speed, and support for 3D.

BioConnect sponsored one of the excellent lunches at the show. I spoke to Rob Douglas, Founder and CEO of BioConnect who said, “We are on the quest for rightful identity and what we offer is a market leading mobile biometric authentication solution for the enterprise. We provide a building block like a piece of LEGO that you can apply into all the infrastructure of an Enterprise to upgrade from passwords and key fobs to a world where you have higher assurance when you are conducting digital or physical transactions.” BioConnect has been in business for eight years and has 1,600 customers and at Money 20/20, the Bank of Montreal announced a partnership with BioConnect and IBM.

BioConnect has a strong belief in face authentication, but also works with other biometrics including voice, eye, fingerprint, and behavioral. According to Douglas, “We believe in both cloud and client and we support the FIDO approach, but there are use cases where the transport of the biometrics through a cloud-based infrastructure can make a lot of sense.”

The FIDO Alliance had a large area with alliance members touting their wares. FIDO (fast identity online) is “the World’s Largest Ecosystem for Standards-Based, Interoperable Authentication.” I spoke to Andrew Shikiar, the CMO of the FIDO Alliance. Local authentication with biometrics is key to the FIDO approach. “Whether you are storing passwords or biometrics, a central repository will be targeted, and will be breached to be used in nefarious ways.” When I asked Shikiar about the desire to share biometrics across platforms he said, “That’s typical of the type of use case that our technical working groups are working to address, while leveraging the FIDO standards”

Conor White, President Americas at Daon described Daon as “a human authentication company that provides technologies to allow customers to create and manage digital identities of their users in a way that’s advantageous in a risk and security perspective.” At the show they announced a partnership to expand from their base in mobile into the contact center.

Daon provides support to a wide cross section of biometrics and provides embedded solutions through the FIDO standard but can support cloud based biometrics when desired. Daon is seeing more customers getting comfortable with going from on premise to cloud based implementations but in the vast majority of cases, the biometrics still resides on the device even if the service is run in the cloud. White sits on the board of the FIDO alliance and sees the FIDO standard with embedded biometrics gaining ground.

Veritran is a software company based in Buenos Aires and developing innovative and secure digital banking platforms for the Latin American markets. They process over 4 billion banking transactions each year, and they are now expanding from Banking into other Enterprise markets and geographies beyond Latin America. At Mobile World Congress in February, they announced a new platform for secure application development, and at Money 20/20 ,they demonstrated some of the apps developed on this platform.

Like other companies, Veritran offers a mix of biometric modalities and in talking with Veritran’s CEO Marcelo Gonzales, I learned a very interesting reason as to why they prefer embedded biometrics instead of processing in the cloud. The Latin American customers buy prepaid plans with limited data. To keep their costs down, they must keep their data usage down, and with the biometrics stored and processed on the device, transactions can occur with minimal data costs.

There were a lot of other companies at Mobile 20/20. As a quick summary I would say a few important things stood out. Biometrics are definitely taking off as we all understand the problems with passwords. A variety of biometric modalities are offered but there does seem to be a preference and movement toward face authentication that can run cross platform without specialized hardware. Most vendors offer a choice between having the biometric data stored and processed on the device or in the cloud, but with the FIDO Alliance behind embedded and the clear advantages for security and privacy, the embedded usage case seems to be winning out.

IFA 2018 Becomes a Showcase for Amazon and Google Voice Assistants in Berlin

September 13, 2018

I thought it was funny that Google and Alexa both handed out the neck worn badge holders which nobody seemed to wear.

Google had a bunch of hired hands standing around in booths looking awkward in white jumpsuits promoting the Assistant. I spoke with a few and found a range from totally clueless to quite knowledgeable.
OTHER VOICE ASSISTANTS WERE NOTICEABLY ABSENTAlthough a half dozen other Voice Assistants exist, I saw little to no presence of Cortana, Siri, SoundHound, Baidu, Alibaba, or Tencent. There was a “Sprechen Sie Bixby? ” signage outside of the Samsung area, but that was about it.

Without doing any quantitative counting it seemed like companies are about equally throwing support at Google Assistant and Alexa. Some companies support both along with Apple’s Homekit. My gut feel is that Alexa is covering more companies but Google is getting a higher penetration with the better known and bigger brands. This probably gives Google more presence even though they have fewer companies than Amazon’s purported 3,500 brands and 20,000 devices.INNOVATION WAS NOT LIMITED TO AMAZON AND GOOGLE

There are some, but not a lot of companies that are innovating. There were a ton of smart speakers, thermostats, lights, electrical outlets and various appliances that can be controlled by assistants, but little of that rose to the level of true innovation based on where we are today. However, I did see a few new things too

  • German Auto Labs, a relatively small startup, has released HeyChris, an automotive assistant that runs embedded in a car. It’s like an Amazon Echo Dot with a screen in the center that mounts to your window. It resembles the Garmin Speak with a speaker and small LCD screen for navigation.

 

  • LG had arguably the nicest display area at the show, and although they supported the Google Assistant in some products they also had a line of of “Hey LG” washing machines, air purifiers, refrigerators and more!
  • A Motorola branded DECT (cordless) phone with Alexa for calling into Alexa devices (they swear there’s a market for this in Europe!).
  • Of course there was Bang and Olufsen with their innovative designs and most excellent margins for Google equipped smart speakers. I thought they would be bigger!

 

INFRASTRUCTURE PLAYERS ARE BETTING ON AMAZON AND GOOGLE

There’s lots of infrastructure developing 3rd-party support of Alexa, Google and custom voice interfaces. For example, a  variety of chip companies like DSPG were showing their ability to enable lower power solutions while design houses like Sugr, StreamUnlimited, and Frontier Smart Technologies can assist with hardware and software development.

OVERALL, MORE EVIDENCE OF VOICE ASSISTANT ACCELERATION

IFA showed the continuing growth and accelerated market adoption of voice assistants. It was a well organized and like CES, IFA  had separate locations that required transportation to access through transportation. Berlin, by the way is a fantastic and unique city with a very liberal feel, friendly people, the best Turkish food I’ve ever had, and very international. Parts of it even reminded me of Berkeley in the 1970s. Of course, there is a lot more presence of voice assistants today!

Todd Mozer is CEO and founder of Sensory.

Alexa on batteries: a life-changing door just opened

September 25, 2017

Several hundred articles have been written about Amazon’s new moves into Smart Glasses with the Alexa assistant. And it’s not just TechCrunch, Gizmodo, The Verge, Engadget, and all the consumer tech pubs doing the writing. It’s also places like but CNBC, USA Today, Fox News, Forbes, and many others.

I’ve read a dozen or more and they all say similar things about Amazon (difficulties in phone hardware), Google (failure in Glass), bone conduction mics, mobility for Alexa, strategy to get Alexa Everywhere, etc. But something big got lost in the shuffle.

Here’s your clue—the day before the Alexa Smart Glasses was announced, Amazon released details of a Fire Tablet upgrade, with one of the key features being a way to make Alexa Handsfree. That’s right, in both the glasses and the Fire Tablet, we have Alexa implementations running on batteries.

This is a REALLY big deal! This means that Amazon has already caught up to Google in being able to implement low-power devices with its handsfree Alexa Assistant. Is this important? Yes, it is. It may be the most important battle to be waged in the Assistant wars. This is because the assistant we want is the invisible assistant that’s embedded into our bodies and our clothing. This assistant would be so small that it enables a seamless experience to augment our intelligence and capabilities without anyone even knowing. This assistant has to be low power, and handsfree Alexa is now enabled in extremely power sensitive modes. Kudos to Amazon!

Apple erred on facial recognition

September 15, 2017

On the same day that Apple rolled out the iPhone X on the coolest stage of the coolest corporate campus in the world, Sensory gave a demo of an interactive talking and listening avatar that uses a biometric ID to know who’s talking to it. In Trump metrics, the event I attended had a few more attendees than Apple.

Interestingly, Sensory’s face ID worked flawlessly, and Apple’s failed. Sensory used a traditional camera using convolutional neural networks with deep learning anti-spoofing models. Apple used a 3D camera.

There are many theories about what happened with FaceID at Apple. Let’s discuss what failure even means and the effects of 2D versus 3D cameras. There are basically three classes of failure: accuracy, spoofability, and user experience. It’s important to understand the differences between them.

False biometrics
Accuracy of biometrics is usually measured in equal error rates or false accepts (FA) and false rejects (FR). This is where Apple says it went from 1 in 50,000 with fingerprint recognition to 1 in 1,000,000 with FaceID. Those are FA rates, and they move inversely with FR – Apple doesn’t mention FR.

It’s easy to reach one in a million or one in a billion FAs by making it FR all of the time. For example, a rock will never respond to the wrong person… it also won’t respond to the right person! This is where Apple failed. They might have had amazing false accepts rates, but they hit two false rejects on stage!

I believe that there is too much emphasis placed on FA. The presumption is random users trying to break in, and 1 in 50,000 seems fine. The break-in issue typically relates to spoofability, which needs to be thought of in a different way – it’s not a random face, it’s a fake face of you.

Every biometric that gets introduces gets spoofed. Gummy bears, cameras, glue, and tape were all used to spoof fingerprints. Photos, masks, and videos have been used to spoof faces.

To prevent this, Sensory built anti-spoof models that weaken the probability of spoofing. 3D cameras also make it easier to reduce spoofs, and Apple moved in the right direction here. But the real solution is to layer biometrics, using additional layers when more security is needed.

Apple misfires on UX?
Finally, there’s an inverse relationship between user experience and security. Amazingly, this is where Apple got it wrong.Think about why people don’t like fingerprint sensors. It’s not because too many strangers get in; it’s because we have to do unnatural motions, multiple times, and often get rejected when our hands are wet, greasy, or dirty.

Apple set the FA so high on FaceID that it hurt the consumer experience by rejecting too much, which is what we saw on stage. But there’s more to it in the tradeoffs.

The easiest way to prevent spoofing is to get the user to do unnatural things, live and randomly. Blinking was a less intrusive version that Google and others have tried, but a photo with the eyes cut out could spoof it.

Having people turn their face, widen their nostrils, or look in varying directions might help prevent spoofing, but also hurt the user experience. The trick is to get more intrusive only when the security needs demand it. Training the device is also part if the user experience.

Virtual Assistants coming to an Ear Near You!

January 5, 2017

Virtual handsfree assistants that you can talk to and that talk back have rapidly gained popularity. First, they arrived in mobile phones with Motorola’s MotoX that had an ‘always listening’ Moto Voice powered by Sensory’s TrulyHandsfree technology. The approach quickly spread across mobile phones and PCs to include Hey Siri, OK Google, and Hey Cortana.

Then Amazon took things to a whole new level with the Echo using Alexa. A true voice interface emerged, initially for music but quickly expanding domain coverage to include weather, Q&A, recipes, and the most common queries. On top of that, Amazon took a unique approach by enabling 3rd parties to develop “skills” that now number over 6000! These skills allow Amazon’s Echo line (with Tap, Dot) and 3rd Party Alexa equipped products (like Nucleus and Triby) to be used to control various functions, from reading heartrates on Fitbits to ordering Pizzas and controlling lights.

Until recently, handsfree assistants required a certain minimum power capability to really be always on and listening. Additionally, the hearable market segment including fitness headsets, hearing aids, stereo headsets and other Bluetooth devices needed to use touch control because of their power limitations. Also, Amazons Alexa had required WIFI communications so you could sit on your couch talking to your Echo and query Fitbit information, but you couldn’t go out on a run and ask Alexa what your heartrate was.

All this is changing now with Sensory’s VoiceGenie!

The VoiceGenie runs an embedded recognizer in a low power mode. Initially this is on a Qualcomm/CSR Bluetooth chip, but could be expanded to other platforms. Sensory has taken an SBC music decoder and intertwined a speech recognition system, so that the Bluetooth device can recognize speech while music is playing.

The VoiceGenie is on and listening for 2 keywords:
Alexa – this enables Alexa “On the Go” through a cellphone rather than requiring WiFi
VoiceGenie – this provides access to all the Bluetooth Device and Handset Device features

For example, a Bluetooth headset’s volume, pairing, battery strength, or connection status can only be controlled by the device itself, so VoiceGenie handles those controls without touching required. VoiceGenie can also read incoming callers’ names and ask the user if they want to answer or ignore. VoiceGenie can call up the phone’s assistant, like Google Assistant or Siri or Cortana, to ask by voice for a call to be made or a song to be played.
By saying Alexa, the user gets access to a mobile Alexa ‘On the Go’, so any of the Alexa skills can be utilized while out and about, whether hiking or running!

Some of the important facts behind the new VoiceGenie include:

  • VoiceGenie is a platform for VoiceAssistants to be used Handsfree on tiny devices
  • VoiceGenie enables Alexa for a whole new range of portable products
  • VoiceGenie enables a movement towards invisible assistants that are with you all the time and help you in your daily lives

This third point is perhaps the least understood, yet the most important. People want a personalized assistant that knows them, keeps their secrets safe, and helps them in their daily lives. This help can be accessing information or controlling your environment. It’s very difficult to accomplish this for privacy and power reasons in a cloud powered environment. There needs to be embedded intelligence. It needs to be low power. VoiceGenie is that low powered voice assistant.

Sensory Winning Awards

October 6, 2016

It’s always nice when Sensory wins an award. 2016 has been a special year for Sensory because we won more awards than any other year in our 23 year history!!

Check it out:

Sensory Earns Multiple Coveted Awards in 2016
Pioneering embedded speech and machine vision tech company receiving industry accolades

Sensory Inc., a Silicon Valley company that pioneered the hands-free voice wakeup word approach, today, announced it has won over half a dozen awards in 2016 across its product-line, including awards for products, technologies, and people, covering deep learning, biometric authentication and voice recognition.

The awards presented to Sensory include the following:
AIconics are the world’s only independently judged awards celebrating the drive, innovation and hard work in the international artificial intelligence community. Sensory was initially a finalist along with six other companies in the category of Best Innovation in Deep Learning, and judges determined Sensory to be the overall WINNER at an awards ceremony held in September 2016. The judging panel was comprised of 12 independent professionals spanning leaders in artificial intelligence R&D, academia, investments, journalists and analysts.

CTIA Super Mobility 2016™, the largest wireless event in America, announced more than 70 finalists for its 10th annual CTIA Emerging Technology (E-Tech) Awards. Sensory was nominated in the category of Mobile Security and Privacy for its TrulySecure™ technology, along with Nokia, Samsung, SAP, and others. Sensory was presented with the First Place award for the category in a ceremony on September 2016 at the CTIA Las Vegas event.

Speech Technology magazine, the leading provider of speech technology news and analysis, had its 10th annual Speech Industry Awards to recognize the creativity and notable achievements of key influencers (Luminaries), major innovators (Star Performers), and impressive deployments (Implementation Awards). The editors of Speech Technology magazine selected 2016 award winners based on their industry contributions during the past 12 months. Sensory’s CEO, Todd Mozer, was awarded with a Luminary Award, making it his second time winning the prestigious award. Sensory as a company was awarded the Star Performer award along with IBM, Amazon and others.

Two well-known industry analyst firms issued reports highlighting Sensory’s industry contributions for its TrulyHandsfree product and customer leadership, offering awards for innovations, customer deployment, and strategic leadership.

“Sensory has an incredibly talented team of speech recognition and biometrics experts dedicated to advancing the state-of-the-art of each respective field. We are pleased that our TrulyHandsfree, TrulySecure and TrulyNatural product lines are being recognized in so many categories, across the various industries in which we do business,” said Todd Mozer, CEO of Sensory. “I am also thrilled that Sensory’s research and innovations in the deep learning space has been noticed, generating our company prestigious accolades and management recognition.”

For more information about this announcement, Sensory or its technologies, please contact sales@sensory.com; Press inquiries: press@sensory.com

TrulySecure 2.0 Wins First Place in 2016 CTIA E-Tech Awards

September 9, 2016

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We are pleased to announce that Sensory’s TrulySecure technology has earned first place in this year’s CTIA E-Tech Awards. We believe that this recognition serves as a testament to Sensory’s devotion to developing the best embedded speech recognition and biometric security technologies available.

For those of you unfamiliar with TrulySecure – TrulySecure is the result of more than 20 years of Sensory’s industry leading and award-winning experience in the biometric space. The TrulySecure SDK allows application developers concerned about both security and convenience to quickly and easily deploy a multimodal voice and vision authentication solution for mobile phones, tablets, and PCs. TrulySecure is highly secure, environment robust, and user friendly – offering better protection and greater convenience than passwords, PINs, fingerprint readers and other biometric scanners. TrulySecure offers the industry’s best accuracy at recognizing the right user, while keeping unauthorized users out. Sensory’s advanced deep learning neural networks are fine tuned to provide verified users with instant access to protected apps and services, without the all too common false rejections of the right user associated with other biometric authentication methods. TrulySecure features a quick and easy enrollment process – capturing voice and face simultaneously in a few seconds. Authentication is on-device and almost instantaneous.

TrulySecure provides maximum security against unauthorized attempts by mobile identity thieves from breaking into a protected mobile device, while ensuring the most accurate verification rates for the actual user. Compared to published data by Apple, the iPhone’s thumbprint reader offers about in 1:50K chance of a false accept of the wrong user, and the probability of the wrong user getting into the device gets higher when the user enrolls more than one finger. With TrulySecure, face and voice biometrics individually offer a baseline 1:50k false accept rate, but can each be made more secure depending on the security needs of the developer. When both face and voice biometrics are required for user authentication, TrulySecure is virtually impenetrable by anybody but the actual user. As a baseline, TrulySecure’s face+voice authentication offers a baseline of 1:100k False Accept Rate, but can be dialed in to offer as much as a 1:1Million False Accept Rate depending on security needs.

TrulySecure is robust to environmental challenges such as low light or high noise – it works in real-life situations that render lesser offerings useless. The proprietary speaker verification, face recognition, and biometric fusion algorithms leverage Sensory’s deep strength in speech processing, computer vision, and machine learning to continually make the user experience faster, more accurate, and more secure. The more the user uses TrulySecure, the more secure it gets.

TrulySecure offers ease-of-mind specifications: no special hardware is required – the solution uses standard microphones and cameras universally installed on today’s phones, tablets and PCs. All processing and encryption is done on-device, so personal data remains secure – no personally identifiable data is sent to the cloud. TrulySecure was also the first biometric fusion technology to be FIDO UAF Certified.

While we are truly honored to be the recipient of this prestigious award, we won’t rest on our laurels. Our engineers are already working on the next generation of TrulySecure, further improving accuracy and security, as well as refining the already excellent user experience.

Guest blog by Michael Farino

Sensory Earns Two Coveted 2016 Speech Tech Magazine Awards

August 22, 2016

Sensory is proud to announce that it has been awarded with two 2016 Speech Tech Magazine Awards. With some stiff competition in the speech industry, Sensory continues to excel in offering the industry’s most advanced embedded speech recognition and speech-based security solutions for today’s voice-enabled consumer electronics movement.

The 2016 Speech Technology Awards include:

sla2016

Speech Luminary Award – Awarded to Sensory’s CEO, Todd Mozer

“What really impresses me about Todd is his long commitment to speech technology, and specifically, his focus on embedded and small-footprint speech recognition,” says Deborah Dahl, principal at Conversational Technologies and chair of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Multimodal Interactions Working Group. “He focuses on what he does best and excels at that.”

spa2016

Star Performers Award – Awarded to Sensory for its contributions in enabling voice-enabled IoT products via embedded technologies

“Sensory has always been in the forefront of embedded speech recognition, with its TrulyHandsfree product, a fast, accurate, and small-footprint speech recognition system. Its newer product, TrulyNatural, is ground- breaking because it supports large vocabulary speech recognition and natural language understanding on embedded devices, removing the dependence on the cloud,” said Deborah Dahl, principal at Conversational Technologies and chair of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Multimodal Interactions Working Group. “While cloud-based recognition is the right solution for many applications, if the application must work regardless of connectivity, embedded technology is required. The availability of TrulyNatural embedded natural language understanding should make many new types of applications possible.”

– Guest Blog by Michael Farino

 

Sensory Makes Inc. 5000 2015 List

August 26, 2015

Guest post: Sensory’s Marketing Team

The editors of Inc. identified Sensory as one of America’s fastest growing companies. The annual ranking of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the United States put Sensory at 3,301 on the list with over 100% growth over three years and 30 new jobs added.

Sensory has a breadth of software products on the market contributing to its growth including TrulyHandsfree, TrulySecure and TrulyNatural, and can be found in over a billion consumer electronics devices around the world.

Congratulations to the Sensory team for making the Inc 5000 list this year!

Sensory Wins Coveted 2015 Speech Technology Magazine’s Industry Star Performer Award for TrulyNatural

August 11, 2015

Guest post by: Sensory’s Marketing Department:

SpeechTeCoverFor the second year in a row, Sensory earns Speech Technology Magazine’s Industry Star Performer Award! Having won the award in 2014 for TrulySecure Speaker Verification and for TrulyHandsfree 3.0, Speech Technology Magazine awarded Sensory the 2015 Speech Industry Star Performer Award for its recently released TrulyNatural technology.

TrulyNatural is a major leap forward for client-based speech recognition and is the first embedded large-vocabulary deep neural nets speech recognition platform capable of supporting natural language. TrulyNatural is a scalable solution that can be implemented on highly constricted devices, supporting hundreds of phrases, with a footprint of under a megabyte, or as a natural language engine on devices with more available memory, like mobile devices, cars, and more.

For more information about TrulyNatural, please visit the technology page.

See official article announcing the award at: http://www.speechtechmag.com

STM15AWARD_starperformbig

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