PenOp Inc., a developer of software for digitizing written signatures, has built a system for hand-held computing devices from International Business Machines Corp. and 3Com Corp.'s Palm Computing subsidiary.

The PocketSign software, to be available in September, would turn Palm organizers and IBM Workpads into electronic commerce terminals, where users could enter and transmit handwritten signatures.

PenOp chief executive officer Howard Schechter said insurance companies such as American General Life and Accident have deployed the remote signature technology to 7,000 field sales agents.

He said recent legislation has confirmed the legal validity of electronic signatures in place of paper. He added that a recently enacted California law for brokerage transactions suggests that "firms such as Charles Schwab, E-Trade, and DLJdirect will move rapidly to entirely electronic processes."

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