Expect Boom in Electronic Signatures

Event Summary

As the demand for desktop E-commerce solutions increases, organizations are looking for new and improved ways to speed up the signature authentication process that is inherent in relying on FAX machines. Today's choices for authenticating documents include faxing handwritten signatures or using secure public key infrastructure (PKI) solutions. With the complexity of installing and administering PKI through-out large organizations, coupled with fast growing presence of pen-based devices on the market, electronic handwritten signatures are sure to gain popularity. Current trends indicate a 90% probability that digital E-Pads will gain mainstream popularity in the next 24 months.

This past July, the U.S. Congress became an early adopter of electronic signature technology, giving its stamp of approval, when they signed the Year2000 Readiness and Responsibility Act electronically. J. Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the House, and Strom Thurmond, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, electronically signed H.R. 775 in order to present it to the President of the United States. They signed an Adobe PDF version of the Bill with their handwritten signature, which was captured on a standard laptop equipped with PenOp Signature software and a Wacom digitizer.

U.K. based Penop is a global leader in legally binding electronic signature technology. PenOp combines biometric and digital signature technology to streamline document sign-off procedures, reducing the risk of fraud and making the paperless office a reality. PenOp solutions are currently deployed in more than thirty countries. Vancouver based Wacom is a developer of graphic, intuitive, input devices. Interlink Electronics ( NASDAQ: LINK ), another developer of intuitive interface solutions, and a partner of PenOp, is positioning itself for increased demand of its electronic signature digital E-pads. E. Michael Thoben, chairman, CEO and president of Interlink Electronics, Inc. says, " Our new signature pad, ePad, has generated substantial industry excitement and shows great promise for the E-Commerce market."

Many security experts will still prefer PKI solutions over electronic signatures. Since electronic signatures are bit and byte representatives of personal signatures, their incorporation in .jpegs, .bmps, or .gifs are subject to unscrupulous manipulation. Though we expect this not to slow down the market, electronic signatures that transverse public networks will be subject to new sorts of electronic fraud. Like PKI signatures, electronic signatures can be altered during transport, however a key difference is that once digital signatures have been altered, they are no longer reusable. Until electronic signatures start getting hacked, don't expect organizations to worry too much about signature security.

Market Impact

As more and more technologies converge to form new markets, and as hackers learn to manipulate electronic signatures, expect PKI and Digital E-pads to join the ranks of other connubial technologies. Vendors that embrace the merger of E-Pads and Digital Certificates will command instant market share. Currently electronic signatures and PKI signatures are not the same thing. PKI gives far more bullet proof certainty of identity than electronic signatures.

User Recommendations

Digital E-pads will become mainstream when mainstream PC vendors delivers them built-in on desktop keyboards. Leading the way is PC and multi-media vendor Sony. Sony's VAIO 55 SuperSlim Notebok already comes equipped with a pen input for signatures or drawings.

Though hardware vendors have seen PC sales shrink in recent years, the birth of an all new E-Commerce Desktop with digital E-Pads will rekindle revenue streams. Being able to attach an electronic signature to an electronic credit card transaction is another level of security for consumers that is sure to become ubiquitous.

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