Ministry of Defence order for university spin-out

A ground-breaking system, developed in Nottingham to boost smartphone security, has been selected by the UK Ministry of Defence.

It's a unique system and nothing like it has been developed anywhere else in the world.
Voicekey's Dr Tony Allen

A ground-breaking system, developed in Nottingham, to boost smartphone security has been selected by the UK Ministry of Defence. The MoD 'Bring Your Own Device' (BYOD) development contract could see a possible saving of money from a reduction in issue of phones to staff.

Voicekey Limited – a spin out from Nottingham Trent University (NTU) has created an artificially intelligent software solution, based on a mathematical model of the human brain, which uses the unique features of an individual's voice to verify an individual's identity. This means that the unique vocal characteristics of a user can be identified through a smartphone or telephone handset, making it possible to quickly verify security clearance and allow access to sensitive military computer systems.

Voicekey, based at Nottingham Trent University's Centre for Innovation and Technology Exploitation on the Clifton campus, has recently received significant funding from the Nottingham Technology Grant Fund (N'Tech), to help market the product. Geared towards the growing life science, digital content and clean technology sectors, the fund is run by Nottingham City Council and was launched on 1 April 2013. The programme is focussed on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the greater Nottingham area, to support business growth and expansion.

Using this grant, Voicekey aims to significantly grow its turnover in 2014/15 and is looking to create several full time equivalent jobs in the next few months.

Founder and former-director of the Centre for Innovation and Technology Exploitation, Dr Tony Allen, has been an academic at Nottingham Trent University for 15 years and is an expert in artificial intelligence using neural network systems. Dr Allen invented the technology behind Voicekey, which the University patented in 2009. He continues to work at the University while managing the growth of the Voicekey business.

The Voicekey BYOD solution works by adding a third level of security to the two levels which already exist on smartphones. Dr Allen explained that the two current security levels are based around "something you have" and "something you know" – basically, your unique phone ID and your unique password. The new development is based on "something you are" – your unique voice characteristics.

Dr Allen, added: "The Voicekey system uses neural connections similar to those used in the human brain."

However, where the human brain has billions of neurons, Voicekey uses only hundreds. It's a unique system and nothing like it has been developed anywhere else in the world. We're picking up a lot of interest from a number of business and industry sectors internationally."

Professor Yvonne Barnett, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at Nottingham Trent University, said: "Dr Allen's leading-edge research in computing science is an excellent example of how many of our University academic researchers work with a range of funding bodies, business and industry sectors - nationally and internationally - to secure the effective translation of their research findings into real-world applications."

In addition to the MoD project, Voicekey has recently won a substantial Technical Strategy Board contract to support its mobile commerce developments. The Voicekey software would benefit shops, supermarkets and call centres. In shops the company uses a QR code – a two dimensional bar code - generated by Voicekey, so shoppers can scan securely scan and buy goods using only their smartphone.

Call centres would also benefit by using the Voicekey voice recognition system, rather than the existing manual based user authentication systems.

The company is also in talks on a multilingual voice biometric for online gaming project in Japan.

N’Tech is part of the £50 million Nottingham prospectus, the city's package to attract investment to boost Nottingham's economy. N'Tech's grants are funded solely through the Government's Regional Growth Fund (RGF).

Nottingham City Council has secured £10 million from the Government's Regional Growth Fund for grants to help fast track development plans of businesses based in the city. The funding can provide grants of £20,000, up to £1 million per successful company to support business growth and expansion.

Councillor Nick McDonald, Portfolio Holder for Jobs and Growth, commented: "One of the principal reasons we set up the N’Tech Fund is to encourage local businesses to develop ground-breaking new technologies. This is exactly what Voicekey are doing. The good news is that there is still funding available and we urge businesses who are thinking ahead to their developments in 2014 to make an application. The process is streamlined and applications are reviewed on a monthly basis – this could be exactly the start to the New Year that your business needs."

Jeremy Hague, head of business development at Nottingham Trent University, said: "The University is pleased to support Regional Growth Fund through N'Tech in Nottingham and we're especially pleased that one of the University's spinouts was able to benefit from the funding and grow its business in the city."

The N'Tech fund has so far had 25 successful applications across the digital content, life sciences and clean technology sectors and awarded grants to the value of £2.2million.

  • Notes for editors

    For further information please contact Kathryn Greenwood or Isabel Jones at the Nottingham Growth Plan Press Office on +44 (0)115 958 8850 email Nottingham Growth or on twitter @growingnottingham

    About the Regional Growth Fund

    The Regional Growth Fund is a £3.2 billion fund designed to help companies in England to grow. So far £2.6 billion of funding has been allocated to support projects and programmes committed to deliver sustainable jobs and economic growth. For more information, please go to Gov.uk

    About N'Tech

    The Nottingham Technology Grant Fund (N'Tech) is part of the £50 million Nottingham Prospectus, the city's package to attract further investment to boost Nottingham's economy. The Nottingham Prospectus is part of the Nottingham Growth Plan a single source access point for all the financial and business support available for investors in the city. N'Tech's grants are funded solely through the Government's Regional Growth Fund (RGF).

    Nottingham City Council put a case together to access the funding, which is now helping to grow the businesses of Nottingham.

    Nottingham City Council has secured £10 million from the Government's Regional Growth Fund for the grants to help fast track the development plans of businesses based in the city, with awards of £20,000 and £1 million per successful company given to support business growth and expansion.  Geared towards the growing life science, digital content and clean technology industries, the N'Tech fund is run by Nottingham City Council and was launched on 1 April 2013.   The programme is focused on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the Greater Nottingham area to support business growth and expansion.

    For more information on these programmes contact Nottingham City Council.

    About Voicekey

    Voicekey Limited is a developer and integrator of Voice Biometrics and associated identity management technologies. We specialises in the design, test and delivery of a range of standard and bespoke identity management solutions across all vertical markets and are working with major multinationals to create successful three factor and voice verified identity management solutions. Applications include:

    mCommerce: Mobile commerce (mCommerce) is a rapidly developing retail model that requires the development of simple, low–cost, secure & trusted mobile point of sale systems. Voicekey has developed the mTrust™ system that uses voice generated barcodes on consumer smart phones to facilitate mobile loyalty and mCommerce transactions using an innovative mobile point-of-sale device.

    Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): The Voicekey solution is a full three factor identity management solution that locally establishes device and user identity prior to remotely accessing government / defence IT infrastructure over conventional telecomm, wireless or computer network connections.  Awarded a contract by the UK MoD.

    On-Device: Conventional PIN/password based user authentication on mobile devices is problematic. In conjunction with a US multinational Voicekey is developing a novel on-device version of its Voicekey ID identity management solution. This will enable users to logon to mobile devices using only their voice.

    Password reset: Market research suggests that it can cost an organisation around 10 Euros to reset an employee's passwords this can be 60% of the traffic to an IT helpdesk. In collaboration with a Japanese multinational, Voicekey has developed an automated password reset system which verifies the user's identity using the IVR variant of our product VoicekeyID.

    Identifying users contacting call centres. Users and call centre agents spend 22 seconds at the start of every call just verifying the identity of a caller. Voicekey automates this security challenge in order to increase user convenience and save call centre staff time.

    For further information visit Voicekey

Ministry of Defence order for university spin-out

Published on 9 January 2014
  • Category: Business; Press office; Research; School of Science and Technology

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