This week, the ESIGN Act turns 13. Technology has advanced on so many levels that today a person can electronically sign from anywhere, anytime on nearly every web device. In honour of the anniversary, we’ve compiled a list of the top 13 significant developments in electronic signature technology:
- Electronic Signature System (ESS) with Pad (1991) – The first e-signatures were integrated into a packaged software application for AutoCAD, allowing engineers to sign their drawings and introducing the idea of embedding e-signature data into a document. With Silanis’ technology, it was the first time that tamper-evident e-signature technology was used to secure data along with a digital signature in a standard document format.
- Secure electronic signature credentials (1992) – With Silanis offering the first secure e-signature credential integrated into a software application, users were able to apply an e-signature to a document through a business applications such as AutoCAD, MS Office or Adobe Acrobat. This allowed the signer to e-sign electronic documents for the first time with an existing encrypted electronic credential file that included a signature image and e-signing encryption key.
- Dynamic approval data (1993) – By automating the process of placing data into fields of an electronic document and associating these fields with a signature, for the first time the field data became part of the tamper-evident seal applied with the e-signature, allowing anyone to detect whether a document had been modified in any way by anyone. Most importantly, this enabled the use of multiple signatures in common situations where the signer also adds other data such as the date and their title.
- E-signatures for Microsoft Office (1994) – For the first time, Microsoft Office users were able to apply electronic signatures embedded in documents using Silanis’ e-Sign Desktop. As the dominant platform for creating office documents, this was a significant development towards ousting the fax machine and the photocopier as dominant office technologies.
- E-signatures for PDF (1997) – With Adobe’s PDF format emerging as the global standard for electronic documents and eventually to become an ISO standard, Silanis was the first company to introduce a software application to apply e-signatures to this format, and would be followed eventually with a similar offering from Adobe.
- Authentication of a form template and form data separately for database storage (1998) – For the first time, organizations that had a significant number of forms could use Silanis e-signatures to sign while continuing to store the form field and signature data separately in a database to be leveraged by other applications. The data remains linked to the specific form template, guaranteeing legal enforceability and auditability.
- Web-based zero client e-sign (2001) – This technology first introduced by Silanis enabled people to sign documents remotely through a browser, without installing a piece of software onto their computer. This capability was made possible by the first deployment of a server application that could present PDF documents in the browser from a remote server and apply signatures and digital signing on the server.
- The “black box recorder” of electronic evidence (2001) – To capture and enable the review of electronic evidence, Silanis introduced new technology that captured actual viewed web pages and the process of reviewing and e-signing by users. This allowed businesses to prove e-signed documents had been signed by who and when they said they were, and ensured the documents could stand up in a court of law.
- First distributed e-vault (2004) – With the introduction of this new technology, Silanis enabled organizations to have vaults remain where the business was located, rather than hosted on a vendor’s servers, which meant that originating organizations were able to maintain more control over documents of significant financial worth like authoritative contracts and notes. Prior to this technology, an organization would have only had one vault attached to its e-signature system.
- First process navigator (hybrid paper/electronic) (2007) – For the first time, Silanis enabled a hybrid process where a signer could review a paper document and yet sign an electronic copy of that document using an LCD tablet in face-to-face transactions. This software allowed customers to view prompts for an e-signing process on an LCD tablet, as well as enter data, check boxes and navigate the signing of printed copies of the documents in the transaction.
- Using SMS to capture electronic evidence (2010) – As part of the capturing of electronic evidence in a transaction, Silanis was the first to introduce the ability to use SMS messages as part of e-signing process as another way to authenticate users. Silanis also added the ability to sign using a voice signature.
- Any premise deployment for e-signatures (2011) – Silanis introduced the ability to deploy electronic signatures either on-premise, as a managed service on the cloud or via a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution to enable organizations to choose their level of investment and control over the technology.
- Transaction management for e-signed documents (2011) – The first software application specifically to monitor, manage and report on e-signed transactions, Silanis developed the ability for companies to manage their transactions, offering insight into the signing process, transparency to the approval process and improvement to the customer experience.
- First offline signing on an iPad (2012) – Using click-to-sign with voice/picture, Silanis enabled offline signing for mobile sales agents and their customers in the event of a low or lack of internet connection.
What a list of accomplishments and developments in just over 13 years of electronic signature technology! If you’d like to learn more about this foundational technology, give e-SignLive a try with a free trial.