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HID Global: OSDP – What Is & How It Elevates User Experience in Access Control Systems

Developed by the Security Industry Association (SIA), the Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP) not only enables unparalleled user experiences but also delivers top-tier security measures, setting a new standard in the industry

The United Arab Emirates and its GCC neighbors are on an inexorable march towards economic sustainability. The successes we have seen (and will continue to see) are largely predicated on the ability of the private and public sectors to digitalize almost everything they do. They have also realized that digitalizing customer and employee experiences is a prerequisite for competitiveness. The horizon would be under a cloudless blue sky if not for one looming issue: cyber threats.

From Wiegand to OSDP

The problem is twofold. The mass migration to cloud services and other emerging tech has turned corporate IT into an unknowable sprawl where even digital boundaries are difficult to discern. Second, threat actors are becoming more sophisticated, aided by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other advanced tools. These issues pervade IT and OT, and even extend to physical access control systems (PACS) such as card readers. And so, we look to security standards that fit our current dilemma.

The Open Supervised Device Protocol (OSDP), an interoperability standard developed by the Security Industry Association (SIA), allows the flexibility to provide great user experiences while providing the tightest security on offer today. The GCC is awash with technology vendors. Their customers often must integrate several offerings to build the access control suite that fits their unique business model. The IEC-approved OSDP was designed to replace early protocols like Clock-and-Data and Wiegand. While 90% of in-service PACS still rely on Wiegand, the system is vulnerable because it is unencrypted and unidirectional.

OSDP offers advanced communication between access control devices and its bidirectional communication makes it highly versatile. It can be used for building access in corporate and residential settings. It can be applied to authentication in finance, healthcare, retail, and education. It is useful in data centers, transportation hubs, and critical infrastructure.

Enhancing Trust and Reliability

The protocol is an open standard that streamlines interoperability between devices from different vendors. This not only promotes competition – good news for customers – but OSDP’s advanced encryption and tamperproof authentication methods enhance trust, no matter the use case. Bidirectional communication between readers and control panels means a richer data exchange and more reliability, both in confirming successful access events and in monitoring the performance of critical devices. In addition, OSDP’s greater range makes it ideal for more sophisticated access-control systems, plus it can work with smart cards, allowing for yet more advanced security ecosystems.

OSDP comes in a range of profiles, each of which has its own configuration and functionality. If you are looking to just replace a Wiegand-based system and guard against common person-in-the-middle attacks, go for the Basic profile. If you want to add the ability to process encrypted messages, use the Secure profile. And if you are implementing a more advanced solution, Smart Card and Biometric profiles are available.

Once you are ready to take the OSDP plunge, you will need to ensure that your deployment strategy is secure and aligned with your specific device and system architecture. This is work for experts, so scour the market to find specialists you can trust. Your evaluation phase will mainly involve identifying devices that use legacy protocols as well as deciding which OSDP profiles you need for each. You need to maintain security; that means planning a phased approach for replacement that allows operational continuity throughout your organization. A limited pilot installation is advisable before settling on any devices or configurations.

As with all technology migrations, testing and training are critical for success, the former having the ability to identify necessary tweaks and the latter ensuring you reap the expected value from your investment.

But get all of this right and OSDP has the potential to reinvent the user experience.

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