ISC West 2015 a ‘Very Good Year’ for Open Standards

Public demonstration of the OSDP spec, release of a free test tool, and a successful PlugFest event during ISC West point toward wider adoption.

Mickey McCarter

The security industry is highly segmented, and many companies make contributions to the manufacture and integration of security products.

Many of the top security companies collaborate to ensure their products are interoperable to protect the lives and property of their customers.

One way is through adoption of the Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP), a widely accepted industry specification maintained by the Security Industry Association (SIA) and on track to be an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard.

The SIA OSDP specification is a communications protocol that allows peripheral devices such as card readers to interface with control panels or other security management systems. The SIA Standards Access Control & Identity Subcommittee leads efforts to support this protocol.

“The SIA Standards program has a long-standing goal toward security systems interoperability. OSDP delivers on that goal, and it is at the same time delivering tangential benefits to the manufacturers that participate,” says Joe Gittens, director of SIA Standards. “The project is delivering tools that help organizations save on research and development and product-testing time. The promise of interoperability is attractive to many vertical markets, including health care, transportation and the federal government, solidifying the business case for open standards.”

SIA OSDP made some advancements toward wide adoption in 2014. SIA hosted a public demonstration of the specification and released a test tool for experimenting with OSDP compliance. The SIA Open OSDP Test Tool is free, open-source software that allows manufacturers of OSDP compatible equipment to test their products against the specification.

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The test tool can emulate an OSDP peripheral device or an OSDP control panel, or act as a message sniffer between two “real” OSDP devices. The test tool is a virtual machine that runs on several widely available and low-to-no-cost platforms and hardware. The tool 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. Interested parties can download and run the test tool for free (view the “Read Me” and “Getting Started” documents before launching) at siaonline.org.

The release came on the heels of OSDP PlugFest held at ISC West 2014, which showcased how a growing number of access control manufacturers are using OSDP as a building block for the next generation of physical access control systems. Manufacturers and integrators displayed control panels and peripheral devices, which were interchangeable on the fly, proving their interoperability through the OSDP specification at the PlugFest.

In a blog post early in 2014, Frank Gasztonyi, CTO at Mercury Security, explained why his company undertook the establishment of OSDP and continues to support it.

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“In the early 2000s, we worked with a number of our industry partners to implement a number of third-party protocols to interface their feature-rich readers and other peripheral devices with our evolving control panels. We were able to meet customer requirements, but each implementation was different and took quite a bit of engineering support,” Gasztonyi said.

“To that end in 2005, we teamed with various channel partners on an open protocol that would be able to connect control panels with various peripheral devices while unlocking the potential of the increasing onboard computing resources within the system. The result: Open Supervised Device Protocol.”

OSDP offers unlimited application enhancements, such as direct biometric support, smart card interface, authentication, FIPS compliance and interactive terminal capabilities.

In 2012, SIA assumed management of OSDP, and the association has been leading it through certification by ANSI. SIA released a new version of OSDP prior to ISC West 2014. In the near future, SIA plans to extend OSDP to include application pro-files for varied conformance levels and an extension to the Internet Protocol.