Providers of electronic signature technology are eagerly waiting for companies to make the transition to a paperless environment. The passing of the e-signature bill "opens up the floodgates for us," says Kirk LeCompte, PenOp's vice president of marketing and product development for New York-based PenOp Inc.The company has two products-Signature and Ceremony-that capture signatures with a pad-and-pen-like device called a digitizer. Users create a signature file by signing their name three times with the digitizer, which enables the software to account for the natural variation that occurs in a signature.

After the signature has been captured, it can be used as a stamp on any document providing the user supplies an authenticating code.

PenOp's Ceremony incorporates various security measures, including passwords and biometric technologies. It also keeps an audit trail, which tracks not only who signed a document and when, but why. "If you don't know why a person signed a document, then you don't have a signature," LeCompte says.

For example, a person might send e-mail with a signature embedded in the message and an attached contract. Unless the intention for that signature is clear, it would not be obvious whether it was meant to sign the message or to bind the contract.

Pen Op is attempting to get its products in compliance with standards for electronic transactions, including those promulgated by the World Wide Web Consortium, the PKI Forum, the International Biometric Industry Association and the International Computer Security Association.

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