Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Speech Technology as a Crime Fighting Tool

November 30, 2007

(The following is taken from Patrick Barnard’s Making Contact blog:)

If you cover the contact center industry, you’ve probably heard about how today’s speech analytics solutions -- software which is used to search and find trends in recorded conversation -- has the ability to detect the emotional state of a caller using advanced speech algorithms. Some of today’s speech analytics solutions let contact center managers be alerted in near real time when a customer or agent’s voice gets “stressed,” indicating that there is a problem. Then the manager can intervene, either by silently “coaching” the agent on what to do next (using screen pops, IM, or through “whisper coaching”) or by actually barging in on the call.

Even if you’re not aware of this technological feat, you’ve no doubt been witnessing how voice recognition is finding new application in everything from IVRs, to security systems, to “smart homes,” to children’s toys.

But did you know that speech technology has advanced to the point where it can also be used as a crime fighting tool?

The Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA), made by West Palm Beach, Fla.-based NITV, is a “voice-based investigative truth verification tool” which basically performs the same job as a polygraph. The company claims the CVSA, when combined with its FACT Scoring Algorithm (Final Analysis Confirmation Tool), creates a highly accurate truth verification system which is now in use by more than 1,700 law enforcement agencies, including U.S. military special operations and intelligence units.

Like the polygraph, results of the CVSA are not normally used in court. Rather the tool is used to guide investigations by helping police eliminate individuals as suspects. The company goes on to say, however, that the CVSA “is not well known outside of the law enforcement community,” and that there is currently a campaign, or at least agenda, underway on the part of the polygraph technology community, which asserts that CVSA is not as accurate as a polygraph test.

However, in a recent survey of law enforcement users from the U.S. Department of Defense, 86 percent said the CVSA was either “very” or “extremely” accurate. The DoD survey also found that 75 percent of deceptive results were validated by obtaining a confession with “a very small error rate” utilizing the CVSA. So, the NITV – the sole provider of the CVSA technology -- is trying to reverse this perception.

The NITV states in a recent press release that its founder, Charles Humble, was recently granted a U.S. Patent for an automated scoring algorithm which is used in the Final Analysis Confirmation Tool, which uses “advanced mathematical algorithms and a built-in learning feature to recognize, evaluate, categorize and quantify the output from the CVSA.” According to the release, “Humble was the first to quantify voice patterns and also discovered delayed stress reaction in voice stress analysis.”

NITV is now on the second generation of it product, the CVSA II, which was introduced in early 2007. The company claims it has shipped more than 650 CVSA IIs since this version came out.

“From the Atlanta P.D. to the Nashville P.D. to the St. Louis P.D., this is an investigative tool that has proven itself as invaluable in the field” said John Slater, a former Captain with the White Co. Sheriff’s Dept. (Ariz.) and current Coordinator of Law Enforcement and Training for the NITV, in the press release. “Once restricted for sale only to law enforcement, the CVSA is now available for some commercial applications.

The press release includes powerful testimonials form law enforcement officials who used CVSA to solve crimes. Perhaps the most well known of these cases is the recent investigation into the murder of nine-year-old Rowan Ford, whose body was recovered in remote McDonald County, Mo. on Nov. 9. According to the release, prior to the recovery of Ford’s body, the girl’s stepfather, David Speares, 25, and his friend, Chris Collings, 32, agreed to take polygraph examinations.

“Both of their polygraph examinations, conducted by the FBI, were determined to be ‘Inconclusive,’” the press release states. “In addition to the polygraph examinations, both underwent CVSA examinations.”

According to the release, the results “clearly demonstrated both subjects were deceptive.”

“Because of the precise results of the CVSA examinations, both were interrogated, confessed and led detectives to the body,” it states. “Both were charged with first-degree murder and forcible rape.”

Detective Jason Baird of the Noesho P.D. stated “The CVSA examinations were directly responsible for quickly clearing this case.” And Captain Richard Levins of the Newton Co. Sheriff’s Dept. said the results “were right on the money.”

Who knows, if speech technology keeps advancing along these lines, and if we keep improving the quality of IP communications, it could be that one day the agents working in collections centers or other contact centers – or just about anybody for that matter -- will have the ability to detect whether a caller is being truthful or not …

To learn more about NITV and the CVSA, visit


Patrick Barnard is Assignment Editor for ContactCenterSolutions and Associate Editor for Customer Interaction Solutions magazine. To see more of his articles, please visit Patrick Barnard’s columnist page.