Researchers authenticate handwritten signatures with wearables

Israeli researchers have developed a way to authenticate handwritten signatures with wearable technology like smartwatches and fitness trackers.

The signature of a person wearing a device with the app developed by the researchers can be verified to a high degree of accuracy by measurements from the device’s accelerometer and gyroscope.

Graduate students Ben Nassi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Alona Levy of Tel Aviv University, along with professors Yuval Elovici of Ben Gurion University and Erez Shmueli of Tel Aviv University, collaborated on research for a paper titled “Handwritten Signature Verification Using Hand-Worn Devices.

Their app yields accuracy of 0.98 AUC (area under the curve), meaning it has very few false positives, and 0.05 EER (equal error rate), meaning it identifies fakes with 95 percent accuracy.

Their paper suggests it could be used to reduce financial fraud, as in cases of checks with forged signatures, as well as for lawyers authenticating signatures on contracts, and election officials verifying the legitimacy of mailed-in ballots. Existing electronic signature verification methods are mostly confined to specialized devices.

“Currently the only way to verify signatures [on paper] is by looking at … the signature,” Erez Shmueli, a professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at Tel Aviv University, told the Christian Science Monitor. “We provide a way that allows you to take the signing process into account – the dynamics of the signature into account – using a smartwatch. And that is something that can lead to a high level of accuracy.”

The researchers tested signatures by enrolling 15 legitimate instances, but say it can work to a similar degree of accuracy with only two enrolled.  They intend to follow up with research indicating the superior accuracy of their method compared to existing ones, Shmueli told the Christian Science Monitor.

AAEON and iSign International recently partnered to bring signature recognition to AAEON-manufactured tablets.

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