Advancements in digital signature technology

April 2004 » Features » PROGRESSIVE ENGINEERING
Digital signatures provide the ideal way to break the cycle of an otherwise electronic workflow that should also include e-approvals and e-submissions.

Digital signatures — public key infrastructure (PKI) driven electronic signatures — provide the ideal way to break the cycle of an otherwise electronic workflow that should also include e-approvals and e-submissions. A digital signature solution can be used to provide the engineers’ professional seal(s) on CAD, PDF, or any other commonly used file type, and provide legally binding proof on the file’s integrity and authenticity. This process turns the drawing into a sealed digital record with an electronic “fingerprint” and signer’s identity that travels with the file for the entirety of its lifecycle. In addition, new-generation digital signature solutions can function seamlessly with many major file formats, eliminating the need for proprietary or third-party verification software, thereby enabling recipients to verify signatures for signer identity and intent, and file integrity from within any commonly used application. In this way, a globally portable, sustainable, easily archived e-record that is protected from forgery is created.

In previous-generation solutions, PKI-based digital signatures meant distribution of keys or smart cards, and a complex and overly burdensome learning curve and overhead for users and systems administrators. These systems were cumbersome and prohibitively expensive, with costs often outweighing the benefits. Fortunately, recent advances in the approach to digital signature solution deployments have replaced many of the expensive elements of these antiquated systems through a single, secure server loaded with software for central control and management of keys, certificates, engineering stamps, and graphical signatures.

Some modern digital signature solutions can also embed graphical signatures onto the document and enable multiple signers across geographies and organizations to sign the same document(s), or specific parts of documents, from any location at any time. Further, a digital signature solution that is centrally managed provides control over signer credentials (such as keys and certificates), ensuring that users have the right and authorization to sign. This type of control provides a level of assurance unobtainable from any “leap-of-faith” solution that enables an individual to self-certify his or her signature credentials. Such advances have made these solutions affordable and accessible to engineering firms of all sizes, while providing a measurable return on investment of three to six months on average.

With modern digital signature solutions, engineers can route and submit 3D models or 2D reports in minutes instead of days, cutting costs and gaining a competitive advantage from shorter project turnaround times and enhanced agility. As most states now approve (and some require) e-submissions, a critical tipping point has been reached for digital signature adoption by civil engineering firms. Civil engineering firms are putting digital signatures to use and enjoying improvements in speed and efficiency today.

Contributed by ARX

 


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