Apple patent reveals plans for smarter, more secure Siri

A newly published patent reveals Apple could be working on a way to make Siri only respond to its owner’s voice, boosting security and stopping strangers from controlling your iPhone.

While Siri is often very good at understanding what iPhone users say, it cannot tell the difference between voices. At the very least, this can lead to friends hijacking each other’s phones, but at its worst this could let a thief access private contact details, calendar events and more.

The patent, unearthed by Patently Apple, describes a system iPhone owners can use to train Siri to recognize only their voice. Amazon is also said to be working on a way for its own assistant, Alexa, to tell voices apart

The patent also suggests the system would let users designate their own trigger call word or phrase to launch Siri. Instead of “Hey Siri,” they could set up the assistant to respond to something else. This could further enhance security as the more obscure the phrase, the less likely a thief would know how to activate Siri.

As Patently Apple explains: “Today a user will say ‘Hey Siri’ and Siri will respond. In the future, the command to call up Siri may be customised to your voice. For instance, a user sets up Siri to recognize the phrase ‘Hey there, Boss’. The customised phrase and the voice must match what’s in Siri’s database before the digital assistant will respond. The customised phrase is technically referred to in Apple’s patent filings as a Lexical Trigger.”

Although iOS can be configured to not let Siri work when the phone is locked, many users do not switch this feature off, leaving their phones and private data vulnerable.

The website goes on to suggest such a system would help the version of Siri built into the Apple TV set-top box differentiate between members of a household. That way, the Apple TV could serve up content relevant not only to what the spoken command is, but to who says it.

But, as with all stories about patents, it is worth remembering that companies like Apple investigate and develop many forms of technology (and even entire products) that never see the light of day. But with , we have hope that Apple’s plans for Siri could one day become a reality.

Alistair Charlton

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