Dynamic Signature Recognition (DSR)

Is The Pen Mightier Than The Finger, The Iris, The Face...?

If Voice Authentication is the The “Bastard Child” of Biometrics then Dynamic Signature Recognition (DSR) is the long-lost, barefoot and orphaned third cousin. In a market climate dominated by technology jocks with proprietary sensors and devices, who in many cases give lip service to interoperability while they plot for market dominance, an easily integrated software solution based on industry standard peripherals and interfaces is often written off as a limited alternative to “real” biometrics.

Well, the joke may be on the “hard core” physical biometrics such as finger, iris and hand. While much of the recent fanfare and media hype (often none too flattering) has focused on high-profile security applications, dynamic signature recognition has quietly demonstrated quantifiable business process improvements across a range of industry applications.

DSR captures the distinct behavioral characteristics of an individual’s signature including shape, speed, stroke, pen pressure and timing information. This requires the use of a signature capture device and an analysis program that transforms the raw data into a template. And while DSR has its limitations and its place, physical access and even PIN and password replacement may prove to be much more revenue limited opportunities than the business process motivated adoption of DSR. DSR clearly offers a superior solution for the authentication requirements of workflow automation, document processing — including contract and legally binding filings — and even for many distribution and supply chain systems as well as rebuilding files for disaster recovery.

This is particularly true in business processes where signatures are already established as the de facto means of confirming the intent of an individual. In these cases, DSR offers a far less disruptive migration to an advanced technology than any other biometric can. Clearly the revolution of migrating from a digital or even an ink and paper signature to DSR is not as disruptive as the evolution of migrating to an unfamiliar process such as a finger or iris scan.

Another significant advantage of DSR shared to some extent by voice (and iris and face, when digital cameras standardize) is the ability to perform seamless technology migrations. DSR software can be upgraded or switched out without massive signatory re-enrollment. Because of the interoperability among capture devices, a transition period can be established during which the enrolled signatories can be verified with the existing software while signature templates are captured for the new software. Interoperability, or lack thereof, has consistently been one of the biggest concerns among customers considering large-scale biometric deployments.

Today DSR accounts for a very small percentage of overall biometrics revenue. This will likely change as biometric revenues begin to be evaluated based on integrated solutions to replace existing processes rather than core technologies. DSR technology has been successfully deployed and is currently working within large enterprises with millions of enrollees and has achieved extremely high levels of customer satisfaction and application success. How many other biometric technologies can make that claim?

C. Maxine Most, December 2002