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NTCIP 1103 - Transportation Management Protocols

NTCIP 1103 v2 has been approved as a recommended standard.

This Fact Sheet was written on August 28, 2009. The status of the standard at the time was: Published in January 2009.

This Fact Sheet was last verified on October 09, 2009

 Check the ITS Standards Search to see if there has been subsequent development activity.


The National Transportation Communications for Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Protocol (NTCIP) is a family of standards that provides both the rules for communicating (called protocols) and the vocabulary (called objects) necessary to allow electronic traffic control equipment from different manufacturers to operate with each other as a system. The NTCIP is the first set of standards for the transportation industry that allows traffic control systems to be built using a "mix and match" approach with equipment from different manufacturers. Therefore, NTCIP standards reduce the need for reliance on specific equipment vendors and customized one-of-a-kind software. To assure both manufacturer and user community support, NTCIP is a joint product of the National Electronics Manufacturers Association (NEMA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). More information concerning the NTCIP family of standards and their related documents is available in the NTCIP 9001 - NTCIP Guide, available on-line at (

Prior to the establishment of NTCIP, traffic management centers used a number of proprietary protocols to exchange information with field devices such as traffic signal controllers and dynamic message signs. The goal of all NTCIP standards including the application level NTCIP 1103 - Transportation Management Protocols, is to identify a common set of non-proprietary communications protocols that address requirements for center-to-center and center-to-field communications and promote interoperability. Version 2 of this standard is developed but not yet fully approved; it provides conformance with NTCIP 8004 v02 - Structure and Identification of Management Information (SMI). Version 3 of this standard is in development and is expected to include provisions for traps and event- driven reporting.

What are these standards for?

This standard, NTCIP 1103 - Transportation Management Protocols, defines a set of rules and services for exchanging transportation management information between transportation management applications and equipment in an interoperable manner. The Transportation Management Protocols (TMP) are interoperable with the Internet-standard Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) and extend SNMP to provide for the needs of the transportation community. The transportation community needs protocols that are simple, flexible and efficient. In many cases these three requirements are at odds with each other; thus this TMP standard defines two other protocols, Simple Fixed Message Protocol (SFMP) and Simple Transportation Management Protocol (STMP) along with SNMP to ensure that they work together. Depending on the requirements for the data exchange, the TMP suite of protocols provides a solution to use any of the three choices within a transportation environment depending on NTCIP device requirements.

Who uses them?

This standard, NTCIP 1103 - Transportation Management Protocols, should be used by transportation and traffic engineers involved with the design, specification, selection, procurement and installation, operation, and maintenance of networks of NTCIP devices. NTCIP device hardware and software designers and application (computer program) developers should find this standard especially relevant to their efforts.

How are they used?

This standard, NTCIP 1103 - Transportation Management Protocols, defines a vocabulary of "objects" used to assure that the transportation management center computer-based devices, and NTCIP devices "speak" a common language. A message must be understood by the device it was intended for, and equally important, it must not be misunderstood or misinterpreted by another device on the same network. Object definitions unambiguously define the content, terminology, units and format of commands, responses and information affecting communications with signal system masters.

This standard must be used in conjunction with one of the NTCIP device profiles which provide the content for that particular device. It must be used with the NTCIP Global Object Definitions (NTCIP 1201), which provides the glossary of common object definitions used by multiple NTCIP traffic control devices. For the SFMP approach, NTCIP 1102 - Octet Encoding Rules (OER) standard must be used. Both SNMP and STMP utilize the BER (Basic Encoding Rules) which are not as efficient as OER.


Communications between a transportation management center’s central computer and NTCIP devices necessitates various options focusing on 2 of the 3 following requirements: simplicity, flexibility and efficiency. This is accomplished by using the objects defined in NTCIP 1103 - Transportation Management Protocols. These objects define the data construct, information, commands and responses that must be understood by the devices at both ends of the communications channel. While the SNMP provided the flexibility and simplicity requirements needed by the transportation industry, there were other needs to efficiently transmit the information between devices. SFMP was designed to decrease the overhead consumed by data identification by utilizing the NTCIP 1102 - Octet Encoding Rules standard that provides more efficient encoding than SNMP’s BER. The NTCIP development effort also needed a way to specify component objects at run-time as opposed to statically in a MIB (Management Information Base). So STMP, which is conceptually similar to SFMP, was developed with the capability to define dynamic objects needed for more complex devices such as traffic signal controls. These TMP-defined application level protocols give the NTCIP device standards a suite of optimized protocols based on simplicity, flexibility and efficiency.

Related documents

The following ITS standards should be considered when using this standard:

The following set of standards and documents, while not part of the ITS standards, should also be considered when using this standard:

How to obtain Standards
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
Institute of Transportation Engineers
Association of Electrical and Medical Imaging Equipment Manufacturers (NEMA), formerly known as National Electrical Manufacturers Association