In a way, contracts form the backbone of modern society: every exchange of good or services rendered, every transaction where we seek the work and products of others is governed and regulated by these agreements. Without the ability to agree to contracts, we lose the ability to acquire services that may be vital for our well-being.
But we all know that contracts are often tedious and opaque, even for accustomed individuals. What about those groups which find this very hard?
The elderly are a large group affected by this. They have many transactions that require contracts: from medical care, to insurance policies, to financial management, and more. This is a group that tends to have trouble following long and complicated contracts. It is also a group that often has difficulty operating technology -- which can be perilous as contracts are increasingly paperless and online.
That's why we created AgreeAble, a contracts platform that is simple and universally welcoming to everyone. We wanted to make a platform that demystifies contracts for those who have trouble with them, making reading and signing as easy as possible.
What it does
AgreeAble works as follows:
1) A family member or caretaker helps the user set up an account, storing a special "Visual Key" as their login instead of a password. This Visual Key makes it easy to verify the user's identity, without having to remember complicated logins.
2) The contract issuer enters a new contract for the individual to sign into the AgreeAble system.
3) The user gets a simple email notification that invites them to sign the contract on the AgreeAble website.
4) The user goes to the website where they can see the terms, validate using their Visual Key, and sign the contract.
The Visual Key is an important part of making the process easy. Current contract services like DocuSign require logins, which may be difficult for the elderly to remember. We wanted to make the login process as easy as "showing" the website something that proves your identity. So, that's what we made the Visual Key: to authenticate, the user just shows the website their favorite, physical object that only they have. (Facial recognition would work just as well, although that IBM service was under maintenance at the time of this hackathon.)
We wanted signing to be very easy too. That's why we chose DocuSign's Click API, which lets users sign an agreement in a single click. We chose Click over the eSignature API because, by design, the Click API is optimized for as little interaction from the user as possible, which is perfect for our audience. That being said, a future expansion could include integrating autofill into the form, which would be enabled by the eSignature API.
How we built it
We built the website in python using the Django web framework. The server uses IBM Visual Recognition to process users' Visual Key, using the data return to generate a unique fingerprint for that key. We then use DocuSign's Clickwrap interface to display simple clickable contracts, retrieving the correct contract from the stored value in our Django database.
The Visual Key uses a fingerprint distance for validation; For an object to be considered a valid key, it must look sufficiently close to this fingerprint. Otherwise, it is rejected. This is an interesting use of data because we built this rather accurate fingerprint using standard vision models, without needing specific domain training.
Challenges we ran into
Unfortunately, some services that we had wanted to use were not available at the time of this hackathon. We had wanted to use IBM Visual Recognition's Facial Recognition feature, but it was under maintenance at the time. So, we had to improvise, which is how we came up with our Visual Key technique...which arguably is even easier (and fun!) for an audience like the elderly.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We've successfully made a very simple and beautiful proof-of-concept for a platform that makes contracts easy for everyone!