The PSIA’s Secure Credential Interoperability initiative

Smart Cybersecurity Handbook 2022 Access Control & Identity Management

The Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) announced its Secure Credential Interoperability (SCI) initiative and a working group to advance its development in April 2021.

The Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA), incorporated in March 2009, is a standards body addressing the need for interoperable systems and intelligence/data sharing in the security ecosystem and beyond. The international group is focused on access control and identity management specifications, with the Physical Logical Access Interoperability (PLAI) specification, its most important initiative.

“The physical access control industry has demonstrated a need for a universally compatible secure credential and we believe we have found a simple, yet elegant solution to address this with SCI,” said Mohammad Soleimani, CTO of Kastle Systems and chairman of the SCI Work Group. “The specification will leverage the security, flexibility and convenience of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and negate the need for investment in the infrastructure.”

PSIA member companies involved in the SCI work group at launch included Allegion, ASSA ABLOY, dormakaba, Farpointe Data, IDEMIA, Kastle Systems, LenelS2, Tyco and WaveLynx Technologies. “We are fortunate to already have a strong group of leaders in the access control and building management systems industries involved in the SCI Work Group,” said David Bunzel, executive director of the PSIA. “They have been able to come up with an effective solution to an issue which will have broad application in the market.”

The SCI specification supports NFC, ISO14443 and Bluetooth (BLE) and therefore can accommodate all device types including cards, mobile devices and wearables. The group has prepared a specification for apps, readers and locks featuring BLE compatibility. “Mobile credentials are rapidly gaining in popularity with many commercial and institutional customers, but the diversity of offerings can often present interoperability and management issues,” noted Peter Boriskin, chief technology officer, ASSA ABLOY Americas. “The SCI proposal aims to increase interoperability and reduce the barriers to portability, supporting enterprise credential management across multiple device manufacturers.”

The SCI group recognised that the proximity credentials currently in widespread use are not secure and organisations are actively migrating to secure credentials. “Smartcards, one of the most commonly used access control mediums, are secure, but pose extremely challenging interoperability issues,” noted Hugo Wendling, CEO of WaveLynx Technologies. “The PSIA’s SCI Initiative is a perfect complement to address this need.”

The SCI leverages off existing standards and commercially available technology. For example, most smartphones enable the public/private key to be created by the device. This is compatible with nearly all smartphones produced over the last five years, including Android and iOS devices, which represent a significant installed base.

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Physical Logical Access Interoperability (PLAI)

The PSIA introduced its Physical Logical Access Interoperability (PLAI) specification in 2013. This protocol provides a means for organisations to transfer and dynamically update relevant employee data and privileges from the ‘logical’ HR system to any Physical Access Control System (PACS), often being operated at different company facilities and sometimes disparate systems. PLAI is a standards-based specification which leverages the LDAP v3 interface to support several logical identity directories, including Active Directory.

Features/benefits of PLAI:

• More efficient onboarding process for employees.

• Instantaneous invoking and revoking of security privileges across disparate physical access control systems.

• Ability to support logical privileges and physical access in multiple business locations and campuses.

• Supports temporary access credentials when employees travel to remote sites. Syncs security access with different physical locations.

• Ability to minimise risk because all logical and physical access privileges are based on a single authoritative source (e.g., it is impossible for a PLAI-compliant PACS to contain two versions of an active employee’s name because it is drawing the employee identities from the authoritative IT/HR source.)

More information is available at

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