Intercepting thousands of phone calls is easy for government agencies. But quickly analyzing the calls and identifying the callers can prove a difficult task.
Now one company believes it has solved the problem—with a countrywide biometric database designed to store millions of people’s “voice-prints.”
Russia’s Speech Technology Center, which operates under the name SpeechPro in the United States, has invented what it calls “VoiceGrid Nation,” a system that uses advanced algorithms to match identities to voices. The idea is that it enables authorities to build up a huge database containing up to several million voices—of known criminals, persons of interest, or people on a watch list. Then, when authorities intercept a call and they’re not sure who is speaking, the recording is entered into the VoiceGrid and it comes up with a match. It takes just five seconds to scan through 10,000 voices, and so long as the recording is decent quality and more than 15 seconds in length, the accuracy, SpeechPro claims, is at least 90 percent.
The technology has already been deployed across Mexico, where it is being used by law enforcement to collect, store, and search hundreds of thousands of voice-prints. Alexey Khitrov, SpeechPro’s president, told me the company is working with a number of agencies in the United States at a state and federal level. He declined to reveal any names because of nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements. But Khitrov did divulge that various versions of the company’s biometric technology are used in more than 70 countries and that the Americas, Europe, and Asia are its key markets. Not all of its customers are law enforcement agencies, either. SpeechPro also designs voice recognition technology that can be used in call centers to verify the identities of customers. Depending on the size and specifics of the installation, it can cost from tens of thousands up to millions of dollars.
The FBI is separately pursuing voice recognition as part of its efforts to take advantage of various biometric methods of investigation, and the National Security Agency has also supported the development of the technology.