What is an electronic signature and what is it used for?

How do electronic signatures work? Here, you can find an overview about frequently asked questions – and, naturally, the answers. If you have additional questions, we are happy to answer personally.

What is an electronic signature and what is it used for?

A handwritten signature establishes a clear link between a written document and its author.

An electronic signature is used to assign an electronic document to its originator, thereby assuring authorship. A qualified signature also safeguards a document’s authenticity (is the document actually from whom it says it is?) and integrity(has the document been changed at any time during the transmission process?).

What is the advantage in electronic reading of handwritten signatures?

  • Reduced process costs thanks to shorter processing and throughput times for electronic documents
  • More efficient workflows thanks to continuous process chains all the way from creation to archiving of media
  • Reduced operating costs and outlay on consumables for printing and copying
  • Savings on the investment, maintenance and administration of scanning solutions for document archiving
  • Savings on the production, storage and paper logistics of pre-printed forms
  • Improved security through a certified signature process
  • Flexibility to accommodate last-minute changes to standard forms, e.g. revision of bank account details or General Terms and Conditions

What are the possibilities available for electronic signature reading?

Document scanners use CCD sensors to read the image of a handwritten signature as colour and brightness information of individual pixels. The signature is recorded as static image information only. The appearance of a signature alone is not a secure criterion, because the individual dynamic parameters of the signature are missing. Signature pads take security to the next level by analysing the signature as it is handwritten on a sensor panel using a special pen. In addition to the appearance of the signature, they record biometric parameters such as acceleration, pressure progression and the angle of the pen while signing, thereby producing a kind of a “digital fingerprint”. This fingerprint is as individual and unique as its owner and, together with a digital certificate, is today the safest method of reading electronic signatures.

How does a Wacom signature pad work?

A Wacom signature pad consists of a special sensor panel with a superimposed display, as well as a wireless and battery-free signature pen. The following diagram shows the basic design of the Wacom signature pad.

The handwritten signature is read using Wacom’s patented EMR (Electro Magnetic Resonance) technology. When the user moves the pen across the sensor panel, EMR scans the biometric parameters of the signature in real time and records this information as an electronic signature in the sign|pro PDF user software.

To allow a visual inspection of the signature, the exact image is displayed on the LCD display over the sensor pane. The image is so realistic, it looks as if the signature had actually been written on a sheet of paper.

What are the advantages of the Wacom signature pad?

Patented EMR technology ensures highest levels of precision and scanning accuracy.

Today, resistive or capacitive technologies are often used in signature pads, such as those seen on Smartphones. They are low pressure-sensitive and can only evaluate pressure differences by making a rough comparison. By contrast, Wacom signature tablets use an active digitiser which in combination with the Wacom patented EMR technology is able to detect the slightest of pressure differences on a 512-point scale. This eliminates signal interference, which can occur for example if anyone touches a signature field with the heel of the hand. Even if the pen is not in full contact with the signature pad, the position of the pen always registers clearly.

The protected mechanical design allows a broad range of applications.

The sensor panels on the signature pads of other manufacturers lie exposed on the surface and can easily be damaged or destroyed. In Wacom signature pads, the sensor panel lies below the non-reflective, scratchproof glass panel of the high-resolution, high-contrast LCD display and is therefore well protected against damage. Compared to other sensor technologies, Wacom signature pads have proven highly effective in harsh operating environments, such as in workshops or in mobile use.

Highest reliability and product quality proven thousand times – a trademark of Wacom

Wacom represents an exceptionally high production quality that is worldwide proven in harshest environments. Our products fulfill highest quality standards and pass extensive quality control processes during the production. The integration into system environments or providing additional functionality will be realised with an open software development platform. Like this, subsequent changes of the system software via firmware updates are superfluous.

Patented pen technology means no maintenance is needed.

The signature pens for Wacom signature pads don’t need a separate power supply so they are always ready to use.

Highly ergonomic usability through flat design.

Wacom signature pads are particularly flat and characterised by an extremely small distance between the display and pen tip. The signature pad is designed so that the heel of the hand can rest comfortably on the pad while signing. This allows a comfortable and natural writing experience and avoids parallax errors between signature pen and LCD display. The writing experience and surface feel are comparable to writing on paper.

What are the other advantages of the handwritten signature compared to card and PIN based methods?

  • No loss of personal signature
  • It is impossible to forget one’s signature
  • Signatures cannot be disclosed to third parties
  • Signatures are always given deliberately
  • Signatures are considered suitable for authenticating declarations of intent
  • This is a learned and customary process
  • No loss of a PIN or identification number

What is the difference between an electronic signature and a digital signature?

Electronic signature is a legal term with a certain degree of legal force. Digital signature is a mathematical and technical term and is used for producing electronic signatures.

Does an electronic signature satisfy legal requirements?

In almost all European countries in which the electronic signature capturing comes into operation it can generally be used for the legally effective conclusion of all day-to-day-business contracts. With the exception of a few singular cases all different European law systems provide freedom of form for these contracts. Therefore, the effectiveness of those contracts does not depend on formal requirements, but compared to contracts that have been concluded orally or per email, contracts with our signature solution offer a significantly higher range of security. One reason for this is the possibility to identify the contract’s parties by their electronic signature.