Unlike a phone, ambient voice interactive devices can be touched (pardon the pun) by multiple people in a household. However, as they are setup today, they’re more accommodating to a single individual user. To deal with multiple users, there are two options:
- Only provide services that can be accessed by multiple people.
- Have some type of authentication or identification for a user before accessing personalized services.
The former could mean that reminders or events are part of a joint “family” calendar rather than a single user’s. It could also mean that the device never assumes its speaking with an owner. The Echo has some settings that require authorization for purchases through the Echo.
For the authentication option, there are several means to do this:
- Two factor authentication. The user can received a text message or authentication number through an app that they then recite into the Echo. It’s important that the pass phrase or number allow for some flexibility in variation to account for speech recognition errors.
- Geo-fencing. A companion app for the service can tell when a user is close their Echo through a predetermined address and location services on the app. If the phone is in that space, then a user can access the service.
- Voice print. Currently, this is possible with Alexa Voice Service-enabled devices on their own hardware. The same trigger technology from companies like Sensory can also allow for user enrolment on the trigger word. The service can then ping the device to see if the enrolled user was the one who trigger the device.
- Pass phrase. The user can speak a pre-determined pass phrase to enter their service. This is not very secure as it could potentially be overheard by others and used. It’s also important that the phrase not contain words that are likely to trip up speech recognition.
Except with the case of voice print or two-factor, services that are being accessed through voice need a big undo feature in case they’re accidentally or surreptitiously accessed. The good news is that voice biometrics will likely be native to the Echo (and probably Google Home) within the next year, at least according to some reports.