Posted on Nov 10, 2017

No such thing as a free, er, trial

These days, no-one wants to pay for anything:  free email, free search, free storage, free social media, free everything. But let’s face it, it’s costing someone, somewhere. I got thinking more about this after a chance remark from someone who visited us at the AI Finance Summit this week in Zurich (https://theaisummit.com/finance/).  He said that […]

These days, no-one wants to pay for anything:  free email, free search, free storage, free social media, free everything.

But let’s face it, it’s costing someone, somewhere.

I got thinking more about this after a chance remark from someone who visited us at the AI Finance Summit this week in Zurich (https://theaisummit.com/finance/).  He said that his large insurance company was “overrun” with offers of free proof-of-concept systems from (and what he said is important) “VC-backed software vendors”.  He also pointed out that a lot of people had been “burned” by these “free trials”.

What it made me realise is that not only are the VCs paying, but so are the companies who are taking these “free” products on.

Getting a company off the ground is hard, whether you have $20 in the bank or $20 million.  No-one ever wants to be the first person to buy your new product, especially in the software space.  Even if you convince the business that what you are offering is genuinely the best thing since sliced bread, you then must convince the IT team, who are usually wedded to the current way of doing things, and will often throw every sort of FUD known to man in your path.

And the worst thing you can do is offer to do it for free.

That may sound counter-intuitive: Surely you want to make it as frictionless as possible for your prospective customer to take on your software? You don’t want them to have to go cap in hand to their boss asking for money for something that may be completely untried.

The problem you face, though, is that people do not ascribe any value to something they get for free.  So that means you cannot get the buy-in from all the stakeholders, because there is nothing at stake.  Stick some money in the pot, though, and suddenly you have everyone’s attention and motivation to make the project a success.

At this point, someone will no doubt give me an example of how they have offered a free proof of concept, and how the project was a success. And yes, I have on occasion gone down that route and yes, some interesting business has come from it. But it is the exception, not the rule.  Apart from once (ironically our first ever paid engagement), all other paid-for trials or PoCs we have run have turned into ongoing business.

The worst culprits?  Banks.

We have had some fantastic engagement with the occasional bank (who sadly I cannot name for confidentiality reasons), but we have had some horrors as well (who sadly I also cannot name for confidentiality reasons).  At one bank, we had hardware installed (that we had paid for) for two years before it became obvious that there was no project, just a consultant who was justifying his large fee by getting vendors to run endless free trials.  At another, we ran a mass of data (voice, email, IM, SMS, trades) through our system at very short notice to show what the art of the possible was (and we found some scary stuff). The bank didn’t buy anything from anyone:  I still cannot mention the name in the office without someone swearing loudly after all the late nights that were wasted.

We are even turning some RFPs away now, as so often our weeks are consumed with endless site visits, WebEx’s and meetings which do not amount to anything.  Sometimes you are a stalking horse for an incumbent vendor.  Other times, it is used as an excuse to make no decision at all.  The problem is that the procurement rules that are put in place to try to guarantee the best solution, often guarantee the very worst.

And that costs the customer money in terms of staff and lost opportunity.

There are some glimmers:  Some companies are beginning to recognise that they need to foster new innovations, and that the best way to do that is to collaborate with vendors, and help fund the projects.  This gets attention and engagement from all sides.  I’m much more likely to give my absolute best for the person who provides jam today, rather than the promise of it tomorrow.

In my ideal world, we would all do a little bit of something for free:  You should not just buy based on a few PowerPoint slides, and so opening the kimono just a little is a good idea.  Ideally, you should have a structured engagement program, where you give all customers the same story.  We, for example, offer to take customer data and run it through our system for free, and present the results back.   This allows us to a) get the best out of the data, and b) set expectations.

Then we offer a partner program for resellers for an annual fee (with benefits!), or a paid engagement with the customer (in effect, a small initial installation) at a fixed cost.  And if that all goes well, we go for the full roll-out.

It is so tempting to offer the world just to try to get business, but unless every engagement is properly scoped, and treated like a real project, and you don’t overstretch your own resources, it is almost always doomed to fail.

Intelligent Voice Signs Strategic Alliance with Navigant

      Intelligent Voice Signs Strategic Alliance with Navigant   Contact: Jessica Harvey Tel: +44 203 627 2670 Email: [email protected] Belia Ortega, Navigant Consulting, Inc. 312.583.2640 [email protected] London, 23rd October 2017 – Intelligent Voice, a leading specialist in voice and analysis solutions, is delighted to announce its new strategic alliance with top global professional […]

 

 

 

Intelligent Voice Signs Strategic Alliance with Navigant

 

Contact: Jessica Harvey
Tel: +44 203 627 2670
Email: [email protected]

Belia Ortega, Navigant Consulting, Inc.
312.583.2640
[email protected]

London, 23rd October 2017 – Intelligent Voice, a leading specialist in voice and analysis solutions, is delighted to announce its new strategic alliance with top global professional services firm, Navigant

“We are delighted to be working with Navigant,” says Ben Shellie, CEO of Intelligent Voice. “They provide state-of-the-art technology solutions, including e-discovery, forensics excellence, and deep information security capabilities required to address today’s most complex data challenges. For us, this type of full-service, highly-secure service provision is vital to protect today’s demanding clients.”

Says Richard Chalk, Director of Global Legal Technology Solutions for Navigant “Management and review of audio has become a major headache for a number of our clients. Intelligent Voice offers a solution that can be easily integrated into almost any workflow, and provides ultra-fast accurate processing in a small footprint.”

The new strategic alliance will allow rapid and effective deployment of Intelligent Voice for regulatory and investigative matters, in particular a deep integration with leading review tools such as Relativity.  Intelligent Voice offers a suite of review capabilities using speech-to-text, phonetic indexing and biometric search.

Intelligent Voice offers a suite of review capabilities using speech-to-text, phonetic indexing and biometric search. Intelligent Voice provides cloud-level accuracy from an on-premise solution for clients who do not want data processed using public cloud providers.  The solution also ensures compliance with existing and future data privacy regulations including GDPR.

About Intelligent Voice®

Intelligent Voice Limited is based in London, San Francisco and New York.  The company has over 25 years’ experience of delivering mission critical systems in the financial services industry, including to several of the world’s top 20 insurers and banks. Through innovations such as the SmartTranscript® and GPU-accelerated speech recognition, Intelligent Voice allow companies to understand their businesses better, with a key focus on unlocking the value in telephone and meeting room audio. For further information about Intelligent Voice, please visit http://www.intelligentvoice.com

About Navigant

Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NYSE: NCI) is a specialized, global professional services firm that helps clients take control of their future. Navigant’s professionals apply deep industry knowledge, substantive technical expertise, and an enterprising approach to help clients build, manage, and/or protect their business interests. With a focus on markets and clients facing transformational change and significant regulatory or legal pressures, the firm serves clients in the healthcare, energy, high tech and financial services industries. Across a range of advisory, consulting, outsourcing, and technology/analytics services, Navigant’s practitioners bring sharp insight that pinpoints opportunities and delivers powerful results. More information about Navigant can be found at www.navigant.com.

Homomorphic encryption: What truly safe cloud storage looks like

No cloud server or messaging system is completely secure: Just ask Hillary Clinton. Even though these systems are protected with layers of security, these layers can be hacked. Brute force attacks can crack passwords. MITM attacks using tools like sslstrip can turn secure sessions into insecure HTTP sessions. And outright manipulation of human confidence can […]

No cloud server or messaging system is completely secure: Just ask Hillary Clinton. Even though these systems are protected with layers of security, these layers can be hacked. Brute force attacks can crack passwords. MITM attacks using tools like sslstrip can turn secure sessions into insecure HTTP sessions. And outright manipulation of human confidence can be used to access virtually anything.

This is why homomorphic encryption is on the brink of becoming popular in cloud computing, especially when only 25% of people trust cloud providers with their data.

With homomorphic encryption, a cloud server can’t see the original content of a file. Instead of the original content being stored, a scrambled version of it is stored. And using homomorphic encryption, everything from plaintext to audio snippets can be stored, searched for, and located on the cloud server without the cloud server company seeing it (explained visually below).

For instance, if you are a doctor who has dictated sensitive patient data (as hundreds of thousands of medical professionals do every day), you could send the recording to a homomorphic speech service, then search the audio file for specific keywords. Without understanding the content of the recording, the service could locate parts of the recording with those keywords and send them back to you.

Currently, most practices send audio reports to medical transcriptionists, which is hardly secure, especially if the transcription service is outsourced and not kept in-house. At the end of the day, computers are less emotional and, therefore, more reliable with information than humans.

How files are securely stored and searched for on cloud servers

At Intelligent Voice we take emails, phone calls  and other communication and put them through a powerful, AI-driven analytics engine. This helps companies see what kind of conversations their team is having with customers, among other things.

The results from this, including transcripts of video files and phone calls, can now be stored securely using homomorphic encryption on cloud servers.

We can search encrypted audio transcripts without ever decrypting them. The cloud server never sees them in plaintext form and privacy is assured.

Below we’ll go over how this works with an audio file. However, the approach is the same for files that are already in plaintext.

Architecture of homomorphic-based encrypted phonetic-string-search Architecture of homomorphic-based encrypted phonetic-string-search

Data Flow

  • We reduce an audio or text file into symbols (which could be phonetically based). These symbols are the “content” that’s indexed on our cloud servers.
  • The encrypted audio and symbols are uploaded to the cloud and added to an encrypted index.
  • When a search for a file is initiated, the search term is encrypted using our algorithms to find matching symbols. Relevant files and file portions are returned.

Legend 

  • Light blue: Encrypt Audio File
  • Blue: Cloud Server
  • Green: Turn Audio into phonetic symbols and encrypt
  • Yellow: Homomorphic representation of phonemes
  • Red: Client-side search preparation
  • Purple: Encrypted results returned

Glossary

  • AES encryption: A very powerful “symmetric” encryption technique ie the key used to encrypt is the same as the key used to decrypt
  • Phonetic Encoder: A process for turning speech into smaller sound-based representations
  • Phonetic symbols:  A sound-based representation of the human voice, like a “sound alphabet”
  • S2S P2G: A method for converting text into equivalent phonetic symbols
  • Trapdoor: A mathematical function that is easy to compute in one direction, but very difficult to reverse engineer from just the answer

This symbol approach is important (and patent pending) because it reduces “search space.” Technologists have found that if you search for words using this approach, it’s painfully slow because of the processing power required. You might be trying to find over a million possible combinations.

However, if we take a word or phrase and reduce it to symbols — homomorphic HH AO MX AH MX AO RX FX IH KX, for instance — there are only dozens of available symbols. So we index these instead, across voice or text, and the search space is reduced from millions to dozens of units. Instead of looking for collections of matching words, we’re looking for matching streams.

Homomorphic encryption protects your identity — not just your content

The use of voiceprint recognition software is becoming popular among companies that manage large customer service teams and employ speech-to-text and analytics engines like our own. Using voiceprints for security verification is easier for customers and also more secure.

Take a banking institution for instance. While the customer service representative is asking you questions about your social security number and where you live, voice print recognition software could be working in the background for enhanced security. It would identify characteristics of your voice like pronunciation, emphasis, accent, and talking speed.

Currently, it’s harder for someone to steal someone’s unique voiceprint than it is to steal information like social security and account numbers. But it’s not impossible. A hacker could easily hack a third-party cloud server that has your voiceprint and use voice mimicking software to hack your financial accounts.

The recent CloudPets hack shows just how easy this is.  Using homomorphically encrypted and stored audio would significantly increase the security and privacy of this data

Conclusion

Even though homomorphic encryption was discovered decades ago, there’s only recently been enough computer processing power to make homomorphic storage and search practical. Before, it would take hours or days to do what now takes seconds.

This is good news for cloud service providers, because even though cloud servers can be hacked, it won’t matter as much if they and their customers are using homomorphic encryption to increase the overall security and privacy of their data:  If the cloud has never had a “plain” version of the original data, the hacked data remains encrypted and inaccessible.

Posted on Dec 01, 2016

Do you trust Big Cloud providers? Only 25% of Americans do.

We all have a nagging sense of worry about letting our personal data roam free in the cloud.  Can we trust the people who hold it not to misuse it? It seems that in fact very few people feel comfortable about it:  We asked 1,500 Americans over the Thanksgiving weekend whether they trusted the “Big […]

We all have a nagging sense of worry about letting our personal data roam free in the cloud.  Can we trust the people who hold it not to misuse it?

It seems that in fact very few people feel comfortable about it:  We asked 1,500 Americans over the Thanksgiving weekend whether they trusted the “Big Cloud” providers, such as Google, Amazon and Apple, not to misuse their personal data.

Shockingly, only 25% said that they did trust them.  Which begs the question what the remaining 75% are doing with their data…

Full results can be found here

Record breakers: Transcripts do not have to be retained

I thought I’d give this post a fairly descriptive title, just to get the point across. There is some significant FUD that has entered my marketplace recently. A quick bit of background: In certain jurisdictions, call recordings must be maintained for a period of time (6 months in the UK) if they are made under […]

I thought I’d give this post a fairly descriptive title, just to get the point across.

There is some significant FUD that has entered my marketplace recently. A quick bit of background:

In certain jurisdictions, call recordings must be maintained for a period of time (6 months in the UK) if they are made under specific conditions (eg FCA COBS 11.8). They are the incorruptible record of a transaction, and so are important.

In other cases, as a matter of good practice, companies keep records of phone calls: If they have personal information in them, then a whole raft of legislation comes raining down about for how long and under what circumstances they can be held.

Someone, somewhere, and I know exactly who, has been suggesting that somehow, if you make an automated transcript of a call, then it magically becomes a “record”, and has to be kept for 6 or 7 years (depends on which version of the urban myth you believe). As you can imagine, this is what someone who had a vested interest in stopping you buying a transcription system would say, as they are having you believe that you have added a huge retention burden by transcribing. That someone would either have slow speech-to-text capability, or be selling a phonetic indexing solution, or possibly both. They would probably be worried about a company that sold a very, very fast and accurate speech-to-text system (with phonetics to boot…)

Now, I’m a lawyer by training, and so this just felt wrong to me. So I did some research, and found no basis for it at all, something I started to mention at meetings. And I was asked whether I had taken my own legal advice on the matter (I tried not to bristle at having my legal acumen and integrity impugned).

So I did: I asked one of the foremost Financial Services lawyers in one of the foremost Financial Services legal firms in the world. I asked this person to give it to me straight.

And the answer was that there is no reason at all why a transcript would transform into a protected species, whether made in a regulated environment or not. Lots of analogies were drawn, and lots of words were written, but the upshot is that you can make a transcript, you can change a transcript and you can delete a transcript: You just don’t have to retain a transcript, unless you delete the original audio file, in which case the usual (say 6 month) period applies, worst case.

Happy to recommend a good lawyer if you don’t believe me!

Image from http://tinyurl.com/napa8vu