How OSDP Benefits Security Professionals

The Open Supervised Device Protocol offers heightened security, better integration among different devices and much more.

The Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP) is a communication standard adopted by the Security Industry Association (SIA) that lets security equipment, such as card and biometric readers from one company interface easily with control panels and equipment from another manufacturer.

In other words, OSDP fosters interoperability among security devices. It also adds sophistication and security benefits through features such as bi-directional communication and read/write capabilities.

A two-way channel paves the way for forward-looking security applications such as the handling of advanced smartcard technology, PKI, and mobile device access. Not only does it provide a concise set of commonly used commands and responses, it eliminates guesswork, since encryption and authentication is predefined. How will that impact security equipment manufacturers, integrators and users?

Here’s one example. For years, Wiegand has been the industry standard but it is no longer inherently secure due to its original obscure and non-standard nature. Plus, the multiple definitions associated with the Wiegand name have created confusion over the years.

OSDP Moves Us Forward

OSDP helps ensure that numerous manufacturers’ products will work with each other. Interoperability can be achieved regardless of system architecture. For instance, the specification can handle smartcards by constantly monitoring wiring to protect against attack threats and serves as a solution for high-end encryption such as required in federal applications. The specification for handling LEDs, text, buzzers and other feedback mechanisms provides a rich, user-centric access control environment.

Significantly, the SIA Access Control & Identity Subcommittee is in the process of making OSDP v 2.1.6 an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard. Many manufacturers have already implemented OSDP and there are many other companies with OSDP devices in development. To encourage this, the SIA has released tools that will ensure that these numbers continue to grow.

The SIA Open OSDP Test Tool is open-source software that lets manufacturers of OSDP compatible equipment test their products against the specification. The test tool emulates an OSDP peripheral device or an OSDP control panel or acts as a message sniffer between two “real” OSDP devices.

The test tool runs on several widely available and low-to-no-cost platforms and hardware. It reduces physical barriers to achieving interoperability such as shipping prototypes to numerous vendors for testing. The underlying source code, also available, is another aspect of the tool that can be leveraged by device manufacturers in developing their OSDP interoperable products.

Because it is backed by the SIA, we’re confident OSDP is going to become very visible. It is recommended that those dealing with smart security in any format will want to start incorporating the use of the OSDP standard in their equipment and systems.

Scott Lindley is a 25+ year veteran of the contactless card access control industry. He is president of Farpointe Data, the leading OEM for cards and readers.

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