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Are electronic handwritten signatures easier to analyze?

A recent study found an answer to this question: Yes, at least in some respects. Forensic document examiners compared ink on paper signatures to electronic signatures which were simultaneously captured using a Wacom Signature Pad. The examiners analyzed features like speed, structure, direction of stroke and even “pen up” movements in a total of 180 samples.
The results of the study indicate that forensic document examiners can rely on the analysis of an electronic signature at least as well as on the traditional analysis of an ink on paper signature. Furthermore, the new technology offers advantages, for example the ability to play back the track of the signature in real time or the tracking of the pen above the pad, producing “pen up” data.
The findings also provide knowledge that benefits the development of electronic signature devices and software. The aim is to make the technology secure against forgery of documents.

Evaluation of WACOM’S Electronic Handwritten Signature Technology

A Whitepaper by Dr Steven Strach, Michelle Novotny, Andrea Devlin, February 2018

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What is the whitepaper about?

The whitepaper addresses the following question: Can electronic signatures written using Wacom’s STU-430 Signature Pads be usefully examined by a professional forensic examiner using Wacom SignatureScope software with a view to addressing their genuineness and, if so, how does it compare to the examination of ink on paper signatures?

Who are the authors?

The authors of this whitepaper are forensic document examiners (FDEs). This profession uses scientific analysis and examination techniques to decide, for example, whether a signature is genuine or forged.
The whitepaper and its underlying investigation was funded by Wacom Co., Ltd. Tokyo Office, and the examination laboratory Forensic Document Services Pty Ltd. (FDS)

What was examined?

The object of investigation consisted of 15 signatures in each of six names, as ink on paper signatures as well as the corresponding electronic signatures. A total of 180 individual signature examinations and 60 comparison exercises were undertaken by two primary examiners. Also, two secondary examiners were available for peer review, and one analyst for compiling the study material.

Which examination method was used?

As the ink on paper signatures were examined following the standard procedures for signature examination, the team used a draft methodology for examining electronic signatures, developed by FDS. The draft methodology defines certain signature features in order to compare electronic signatures and ink on paper signatures directly.

Which signature features were evaluated?

The examiners analyzed pen force, speed, pen stops, pen stroke, pen lifts, pen orientation, signature line smoothness, orientation with respect to the signature line, width, height and area of the signature as well as pictorial features (= “pen up” information).

What are the main results?

According to the study, examinations of electronic signatures are either equivalent or have an advantage compared to examinations of ink on paper signatures. Most of the signature features were easy to evaluate with the help of Wacom SignatureScope software. Exceptions were pen orientation and signature line smoothness.
A clear advantage of the electronic signature examination was the possibility of pictorial information analysis, i.e. being able to track the “pen up” movements above the pad.