It’s safe to say that pins and passwords are universally a nuisance. Armorvox’s superior voice biometric technology automates identity authentication in unlimited applications, eliminating the need for account holders to remember pins and passwords once and for all. The technology has been adopted globally by government agencies, financial services, healthcare, mobile and telecommunications companies.
Founder of Armorvox, Clive Summerfield says a person’s voice is three times more unique than their fingerprint – making it a highly reliable source for identity authentication. Armorvox creates a voice print (a statistical representation of the sound of a person’s voice), and compares it with a voice file to determine whether the speaker is the same individual who owns the account.
For instance, when someone calls the bank or a government agency, a machine will answer and ask the caller to say their account number. The speech telephony recognition system recognises the number, and Armorvox confirms whether it is the account holder saying the account number. In call centres, the Armorvox voice biometric technology eliminates the need for asking a range of questions to establish the caller’s identity; and in an automated system, it eliminates the need for account holders to remember their pins and passwords.
Dr Summerfield says the cost of manual authentication in call centres across Australia is between $200 million and $500 million.
“Our technology solution solves the problem at approximately 10 percent of that cost, so the dollar value of our technology is $50 million in Australia – and if Australia makes up 5 percent of the world market, our technology is worth $1 billion on an international scale,” he says.
Building the technology took two years, 24 engineers, and over $1 million in funds.
“We raised angel investment back in 2007, starting off with $200,000 which crept up to $500,000. In 2010, when we were close to the point of commercialisation of the technology, we were able to raise a further $1 million in equity and another $1 million in debt,” says Dr Summerfield.
Business model and go to market strategy
The company licenses their technology to business partners who integrate the Armorvox product into the solution they’re creating for their local market – whether it’s help-desks or web-based and smartphone applications.
“Our go to market strategy is to license our technology for integration into other companies’ solutions; and because Armorvox is language independent, it doesn’t matter what linguistic market the technology is deployed into,” says Dr Summerfield.
“One of the components of Armorvox is a built-in tuner, which will analyse its performance upon the population of involved speakers, and tune itself to maximise its performance without any supervision from us.”
In another strategic move, Armorvox secured patent protection around some of the features of their product – such as voice biometrics over the internet and over smartphone applications – which has been granted in Australia and pending in the US.
“This way, we’re able to secure the exclusive rights for certain aspects of our technology which then becomes a valuable asset for our firm as it moves towards being adopted by global channels,” says Dr Summerfield.
Their pricing strategies depend on what type of partner they’re working with. In the case of help-desks, for instance, help-desks themselves charge a price per password reset, so Armorvox charges a fraction of that.
“We charge $0.50 per password reset which then enables the partner to uplift that price and incorporate their own services into it. Help-desks typically charge somewhere between $2 to $3 per password reset, which is still an 80 percent cost benefit over doing a password reset manually. And a password reset for a government employee is $20,” says Dr Summerfield.
Americanisation of the company
Though they’re achieved it successfully, the biggest challenge for Armorvox has been expanding into the global channel. Dr Summerfield says that it is very difficult for a technology company to receive traction if they’re not based in the US.
As such, Armorvox was deliberately established to look like an American company – through the spelling of ‘armor’ and being .com rather than .com.au. This is in addition to their American approach to marketing.
“I’ve been around the tracks long enough to know that the reality is – particularly in our case, as a technology provider as opposed to a company building a business process which is quite different – that despite the moves that are going around the world, it’s still the US technology industry that dominate the global market,” says Dr Summerfield.
He adds that getting into global channels requires a company to be linked into their corporate headquarters, not necessarily their regional sales office.
“That’s the biggest problem of being in Australia; more often than not, you are dealing with a regional sales channel for a major corporate company, not necessarily with the corporate headquarters where the strategy and the principle decisions about the business are made,” says Dr Summerfield.
“This is not to say that these companies ignore what goes on in other parts of the world, but the problem for us is that our strategy as a business is to be acquired. It’s a buy-out strategy.”
An American marketing approach, Dr Summerfield adds, is more global, targeting bigger partners. Australia and New Zealand have a combined population of less than 28 million, whereas the US and European markets are 20 times that size.
“Australia is more like a microcosm of the US and European markets. We’re addressing those markets where the opportunities are, in order of magnitude, much larger than Australia,” he says.
Armorvox is now the world’s largest voice biometric system in government services in the world. 30 percent of New Zealanders have an Armorvox voice print, and 55 percent of the calls to the New Zealand tax office go through the Amorvox voice biometric system.
The company now has 80 global partners – including Salmat and NSC Group from Australia, and Identica and Voice Innovate from the UK and Canada respectively.
“We now have commercial deployments in the UK and Canada, which shows that this is truly an international product,” says Dr Summerfield.
For more information visit www.armorvox.com.