Safaricom launched a voice biometrics system dubbed jitambulishe in December last year with the aim of reducing fraud and cutting down the time spent verifying customers.
Voice biometrics is a technology that extracts a person’s voice patterns and verifies the identity of the speaker using just voice. Similar to fingerprints and irises, a person’s voice is unique.
Voice is based on three attributes: what you are saying, how you speak (accent, language, and speaking style), and vocal tract. The most crucial information is via the vocal tract which entails the shape of the mouth, nose, and larynx, which is unique and cannot be altered or disguised. The vocal tract is the main basis on which voice biometrics operate.
Dr Luka Wandanje, a linguistics instructor at GEMS Cambridge International School believes that although some people can mimic the voices of others, vocal tract cannot be altered.
“Because of the permanent characteristics a biometric tool measures, it cannot be fooled into thinking it is another person. Not even a cold or flu can alter this,” he observes.
How Does Jitambulishe Work?
Jitambulishe, which means ‘identify yourself’ in Swahili, enables customers to receive assisted services such as resetting M-Pesa PIN and PUK by using voice ID for authentication. That means that a customer’s voice is used as a password thereby reducing the number of steps a customer goes through to get help.
To activate the jitambulishe service, customers can dial 100 or 200. The activation will capture the customer’s voice pattern to create a special voice print “which is stored as a secure string of numbers and characters.”
The voice biometrics system makes it possible to transcribe “what a person says and how they said it by replicating the position a mouth makes when speaking a certain speech pattern.”
Martin Kinyua, an anti-fraud officer at ENG Systems said: “If banks embrace voice fingerprints, the return on investment will be worth the pain. The best thing about voice ID is that it can be single factored in authentication meaning, for one to lose information, it would require [the] loss of more than one issue of authentication – which is rare.”
To improve the security of stored samples, one may be asked to repeat pre-recorded voice prints randomly. This is that the biometrics system utilises to proof a request for entry.
In 2017, Safaricom also introduced an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) service for the visually impaired. IVR allows visually impaired customers to access M-Pesa services with ease while increasing financial inclusion.
Overall, Safaricom has been making major strides in technology and jitambulishe is a great step towards increasing security amid increasing cyber crimes such as identity theft. Therefore, the voice biometrics system eliminates the cumbersome process of using PINs and passwords to improve customer service delivery.