In a Galaxy Far Far Away…
Now that I got you reading, I need to admit that this is totally fake news. I’m sorry to disappoint all the Star Wars fans, but this story is not about Mark Hamill nor the Star Wars saga. It’s about the state of affairs in the electronic signature world.
Visible ≠ authentic
Imagine for a second how much confusion this prank above may cause in the world. This signature seems legit, the certificate attached to the document is authentic, and a regular Joe has no other way to validate it, but somehow reach out to Mark himself, and ask about it.
At the same time, this document was signed exactly as it was supposed to: I wrote a document, converted it to PDF, and then added the signature image. You can easily check the signature status and validity in any Acrobat Reader app. All seems to be in order.
Surely, Mark will deny giving that signature. But that leads to another problem — anyone can deny their electronic signatures if the odds turn against them for some reason. And that would lead to long disputes and court battles. And that’s exactly what we do not want to happen in the electronic signature world.
This problem is not a new one. From many angles it seems to be solved. There are regulations like eIDAS, E-Sign and UETA in place for years. There are solid electronic signature standards (PadES, CadES, XadEs) that can be used. But still, the most popular way to sign electronically is to paste the signature image to document and consider it done.
Bridge between digital and physical
A tiny country, Estonia, has chosen to adopt a different route for electronic signatures. Rather than focusing on the act of signing, it focused on the authenticity of the signature and signature issuer itself. Estonian digital signatures are based on the protected digital identity of a person. Every citizen obtains the digital identity issued by the government with the secure means to use it for various services, including digital signatures.
In Estonia, digital and mobile signatures are not exactly novelty products. The first official digital signature based on the Estonian ID-card was given already in 2002. And it is still considered to be “cutting-edge” globally. But it has a huge downside — you must be Estonian citizen to use it. Or at least the e-resident of Estonia.
Luckily there is the next best alternative to being Estonian available for everyone: .ID digital identity and the electronic signatures based on that. .ID digital identity is based on real person verification — the process that builds the bridge between the digital and real world. The digital identity is then secured in a way that only the person who created it can control it using .ID electronic signature app.
While the identity verification services have been out there for a while, .ID is still one of the few products to combine two remarkable technologies — identity verification and advanced electronic signatures into one seamless product.
Making invisible visible
Of course, we are just at the beginning of the road. That is also the starting point of my role here in Agrello. As the Head of Product and Business Development, my mission is to help our team to navigate the paths of building .ID products, discovering and mapping possible opportunities and helping to set the plans to move forward and keep the focus.
The key challenge for .ID is to make the invisible visible. Counterintuitive as it may sound, but the strongest electronic signature is the invisible one. You won’t necessarily see a nice calligraphic representation of your initials or name anywhere in the signed document.
.ID electronic signature is actually a specific digital stamp, that combines together a unique secret part of a person’s digital identity, cryptographic fingerprint of the documents signed, and signing authority’s certificate. Those components allow us to clearly identify the person who signed, and the exact document version that was signed. In addition, this approach enables signing any digital data file and is not restricted to the PDF version only.
Another challenge is to enhance the usability of such strong electronic signatures. Topics we are working on are the creation of the digital identity, broadening of the use cases and integrations, sharing the document, validating and proving the digital documents.
Roadmap to the future of digital identity services
Three key flagship missions we have outlined for upcoming months include the tighter integrations with document editing software suits, mobile digital signature user experience and cloud identity.
In the first mission, we will bring the .ID digital signature right into the center of document creation. We envision that people are collaborating in the cloud to create the document together and they should be able to sign it there immediately, with as few steps as possible. I’m hoping to share some exciting news about it very very soon.
In the second mission, we are focusing on catering our mobile users better. Our .ID is born in mobile and we are seeing a very quick adoption of .ID app. We want to bring the best and safest digital signing experience to the people who are on the go and need to preview, sign and share documents using their mobile phone solely.
And the third mission is to introduce a truly secure cloud identity. While at the moment we secure user digital identity in the specific mobile device, in the longer term we see that the secure identity can live securely in the cloud being accessible with any device. That opens up a new world of seamless integrations with other SAAS platforms.
This is going to be an exciting journey and I’m glad to participate in this. Maybe it’s not going to be as epic as the Star Wars saga, but who knows, maybe it will. May the force be with you :)
Head of Product and Business Development
Jarmo Tuisk has been in the software development industry since the late 1990’s, started with web content management software back then. He was also responsible for the Estonian electromobility program from 2011–2013, creating the world’s first nation-wide electric vehicle quick charging network and setting up a fully mobile app-based electric car-sharing service in 2012. Before joining Agrello as the Head of Product and Business Development, Jarmo was involved in blockchain based energy trading platform WePower and innovative mobility app OPnGO.