by Stephan Herron, Director of Sales & Marketing, Scriptel

Electronic signature capture is a complex topic that tends to leave users confused and looking for answers. Stephan Herron, Scriptel Corporation’s Director of Sales & Marketing, sat down to answer some of the most common questions surrounding eSignature capture.

Scriptel PadQ: What is an electronic signature?

A: “Electronic Signature” or “eSignature” is, in its broad sense, a legal term. It refers to existing laws in most of the world that make electronic agreements and contracts just as valid as paper agreements and contracts. Certain conditions are attached, such as requiring approvals that can be verified (to replace handwritten signature on paper). While it would be nice if the term “electronic signature” covered only the approval stage, the term is used to cover everything from the distribution of the document to its long-term storage so it can be a bit confusing.

In a narrower sense, electronic signature capture refers to the process of collecting and digitizing a handwritten signature. It is an important component of eSignature because the digitized data can be rendered to show the familiar form of a handwritten signature on a document and stored with the document for additional security. Additional biometrics, email addresses and other personal data are typically not needed for legally valid eSignature, if electronic signature capture is used with a qualified signature pad.

Q: How does an electronic signature differ from a digital signature?

A: “Digital Signature” is an application of encryption. Its main use is to verify the sender of a digital message and that the contents of the message are authentic (unaltered). The sender has a “private key” and the recipient uses a “public key” (sometimes called a “digital certificate”) to perform the verification. The digital certificate is often issued by a trusted authority. For example, SSL (the familiar https://) Internet communications use digital signatures.

Digital signature is often used in an electronic signature process because it verifies the authenticity of the document and where it was sent from. Digital signature may or may not actually identify the sender. Digital signature does not necessarily encrypt the document itself so, in some cases, it is still viewable by others in the transmission. It is not “electronic signature” in the legal sense which must also show that the sender approved the specific document and expects to be legally bound by its terms and, under most laws, that the document will be stored in a secure manner for later retrieval.

Q: How are electronic signatures applied to documents?

A: To apply a handwritten electronic signature, use a signature pad. The signature pad will track the motion of the electronic pen tip across its surface and transmit this motion as data to the PC. The data will then be “rendered” as an image and can be simply pasted onto a document or entered on the document via a form box. The digitized data can also be stored together with the image in the document and is very important in any later forensic signature examination.

Q: What are the Benefits of eSignature capture?

A: Quite simply, electronic signature capture is the most natural way of obtaining a valid, legal “signature” for use on electronic documents. Everybody is quite comfortable with handwritten signatures on ink and paper and electronic signature pads provide the closest emulation of this. One of the beauties of signature is that no two signatures from the same person are exactly alike, so any electronic signature that is an exact copy of another can be automatically shown to be a fraud. This is not true for biometric methods such as fingerprint readers, etc.

“Click-to-sign” and smartphone or tablet-based signatures do not provide the same combination of user comfort and forensic validity as a high-quality electronic signature pad.

To learn more about Scriptel pads, visit the product pages on our webstore.