NIST finalizes interoperability specs for PIV card readers

The National Institute for Standards and Technology has released the final version of interoperability requirements for PIV card readers.

NIST Special Publication 800-96, titled "PIV Card Reader Interoperability Guidelines," sets out "requirements that facilitate interoperability between any card and any reader." Agencies are required to begin issuing smart, interoperable Personal Identity Verification cards by October under Homeland Security Presidential Mandate 12.

Although HSPD-12 requires issuance of the cards, it does not specifically address how they will be used. But the intent of the mandate is that a card issued by any agency can be used by any other agency for physical and logical access, which requires interoperability standards for readers.

SP 800-96 specifies requirements for both contact and contactless readers, and for both physical and logical access. Requirements for contact and contactless readers are similar, and for each type of reader they are identical for physical and logical access. The technical specifications are based on standards from the International Standards Organization.

The interface for both contact and contactless readers must conform to the Personal Computer/Smart Card format. Retrieval time for 4Kb of data with the contactless readers is 2 seconds. The contact readers must be able to retrieve 12.5Kb within 2 seconds.

The contactless readers, which use radio frequency to read the card's smart chip, will not be able to read a PIV card more than 10 cm, or about 4 inches, from the reader.

William Jackson is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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