Lextech News

Twilio & Enterprise Mobility: User Identity Verification

August 2, 2011

  • Jonathan Ozeran

This is the second in a series of posts dedicated to identifying opportunities to extend field worker mobile solutions through SMS and voice automation powered by Twilio. In my last post, I talked about the challenge of speech-to-text transcription and provided a few ways B2B / enterprise users might be able to make use of this feature within the context of a mobile application.

Now, I’d like to explore user identity verification and how this type of approach might help solve additional business challenges in the enterprise.

Challenge: Verifying a user’s identity beyond traditional log-in credentials using SMS and voice.

Solution: Twilio Client + Twilio SMS Messages

We often need to incorporate authentication into enterprise mobile applications, generally requiring some form of secure web services and a standard means of authentication. Adding multi-factor authentication through either voice or SMS becomes a much simpler task when the platform can handle the heavy lifting, avoiding weeks (or months) of complex systems integration effort. An enterprise application user, for example, could save their preferred secondary authentication mechanism to their user profile (either through Active Directory or LDAP) and with a simple look-up for that data, we could instruct the Twilio API to verify according to the user’s preference.

This approach can also benefit a scenario where a user may be provided with one or more unique codes that can unlock certain functionality within a mobile application tied to a task, role or class of user. This solves a frequent use case where an MDM (mobile device management) software or partner is usually looked upon for a solution without really having any built-in support for the task at hand.

Thinking about regional sales staff for a moment, I also see an opportunity to simplify the provisioning and availability of customized and dynamic voice support for users new to devices like smartphones and tablets. On-boarding and orientation for enterprise users can definitely leverage video tutorials and polished user experience design, but it’s a natural fit to extend the capabilities of an IT support / helpdesk operation with some automated tools. If a provisioned app-specific support phone number could take in as input an employee’s user ID (or even a code made available at certain points within an application), we could identify the type of user and even recognize some of the functionality and specific obstacles that they’ve run into as part of their interaction with the application. With a sophisticated and dynamic telephone-based support system, common questions could be addressed and keyword-based patterns could be developed to help guide a user to a solution.

The previous example is beneficial, but I think an even more powerful offering would be the delivery of automatically-generated voicemails and/or SMS messages to users running into challenges with a particular application. Much like an exercise in analytics and usage tracking integration, a module or SDK could be developed to map an obstacle course where certain conditions and trigger points could be defined. This would depend, of course, on the application, platform and business objectives but automatically triggering voicemails or SMS messages to provide additional direction could help those users falling behind with their use of the application. We want to take advantage of as many tools as possible to minimize the likelihood of a user “giving up” on a mobile application and reverting back to the “old way” via paper and pencil. At the very least, a user could be sent a text message providing support and contact information if they run into trouble.

From a B2B e-commerce perspective, an ordering and procurement professional could take advantage of additional user identity verification to minimize fraud and maintain an active communication channel with customers as they move between locations and switch between devices during their day. We are receiving a growing number of inquires about this use case and think there may be some opportunity to layer additional security into commerce-centric mobile applications as they continue to evolve.

Lastly, I want to underscore the importance of the notion described in Twilio’s Intuit case study:

…the project ignited the imagination of product managers across the company.

This is the holy grail for those of us looking to leverage mobility to solve our customer’s business problems and is rapidly becoming the rule rather than the exception. Each additional discussion and conversation with our customers centered around mobility naturally energizes those involved and we love to feel and be a part of that excitement to achieve challenging goals and make business applications more useful, intelligent and extensible for the future.

Jonathan Ozeran
Mobile Technology Strategy, Lextech Global Services
@jozeran