The Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) was founded in 2008 with a goal of creating ‘plug-and-play interoperability’ among physical security devices, systems and services. Since then, the organisation’s mission has both expanded to include logical security and focused more narrowly on identity, a critical aspect of security today.

In recent years, PSIA has concentrated on its PLAI (Physical Logical Access Interoperability) specification, which provides a means to enable disparate physical access control systems (PACS) to communicate to each other and share employee identity data. This is especially important for companies who have made acquisitions and inherited different incompatible PACS systems. “PLAI can unify a security environment through one trusted source, even if there are multiple PACS systems,” says David Bunzel, Executive Director of the Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA).

Bridge between disparate PACS

The PLAI specification provides a bridge between disparate PACS, allowing a single trusted source for identity management. Leading PACS vendors including JCI (Software House), Lenel, and Kastle Systems and biometric vendors including Eyelock, Idemia, and Princeton Identity, have each implemented PLAI adapters, supporting this specification. AMAG will have their adapter in the coming months, and Honeywell and Siemens have it on their road maps.

At ISC West last April, PSIA was able to demonstrate five of these vendors sharing records and the ability to add and terminate an employee and have it updated across each PACS and biometric system.

The Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) has evolved from supporting physical security to also integrating logical security
PSIA was able to demonstrate five of these vendors sharing records at ISC West last April

The Physical Security Interoperability Alliance (PSIA) has evolved from supporting physical security to also integrating logical security. Access to facilities and secure areas of buildings is increasingly dependent on software and hardware systems which can validate a person’s identity.

“The PSIA has chosen to focus on interoperability between identity management systems and access control devices,” says Bunzel. “We have successfully demonstrated the technology, and it is now being specified by consultants, integrators and enterprise customers in actual security systems. We expect to see some large companies announcing PLAI implementations in the next quarter.”

Open standards processes

PSIA relies on an open standards process, with collaboration among leaders in the various parts of the security industry. Specifications are architected, discussed, drafted, and reviewed by members of the organisation in technical committees. The process is dynamic, with periodic updates added, which will improve and enhance the specifications as appropriate.

The PSIA has focused on identity management for enterprise customers, says Bunzel. “We have active members who make devices that support access hardware (for example, locks and biometric systems) who by design complement PACS vendors and HR management systems.”

PLAI also enables a variety of services for enterprise customers that may rely on a security credential"

“We continue to add more PACS and biometrics vendors to the PLAI ecosystem, expanding the value of the specification in the market,” says Bunzel. “PLAI also enables a variety of services for enterprise customers that may rely on a security credential, including printing services, parking, and facility management. In the near future, the PSIA expects to extend PLAI into elevators. There are other identity management capabilities, and the PSIA will evaluate opportunities as the market demands them,” says Bunzel.  

In addition to PLAI, PSIA has several ‘legacy’ specs, but they are not actively working on further iterations. PSIA could always consider new development on legacy specs if the market demanded it. Some legacy specs address video, and security cameras often work with access control systems. However, PSIA currently is leaving video to ONVIF. The near-term direction and plan for the PSIA is to focus on PLAI and its commercialisation.

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Larry Anderson Editor, &

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

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