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NTCIP 1209 - Object Definitions for Transportation Sensor Systems (TSS)

This fact sheet was updated 9/18/2009. The current published standard was 1209:2005, v. 01.19. 1209 v0210b was issued for user comment in 2007; no resulting recommended standard has been issued.

This Fact Sheet was written on September 18, 2009. The status of the standard at the time was: Published in November 2005.

This Fact Sheet was last verified on September 18, 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 transportation 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 (

Human communication relies on a vocabulary of words, each defined with a fixed meaning and spelling that are understood by the members of the conversation group. Computers have a similar vocabulary, called "objects" in the NTCIP standards. These objects define all possible commands, responses and information that may be exchanged among microprocessor-controlled electronic equipment, traffic management systems (which could include central computers housed in a center or portable computers, e.g. laptops), and by extension, their human operators. The NTCIP groups these objects by subject material (e.g., sensor systems) and calls these groupings "object definitions." The objects defined in this standard allow an operator to command and monitor transportation sensor systems.

What are these standards for?

This standard, NTCIP 1209 - Object Definitions for Transportation Sensor Systems (TSS), provides the vocabulary - commands, responses and information - necessary for traffic management and operations personnel to control, manage, and monitor transportation sensor system devices. These devices include smart inductive loop amplifiers, machine vision video detection, and microwave radar monitoring systems. They provide various methods of sensing the presence and other characteristics of vehicle traffic. This standard includes an overview of TSS architecture and operations, and contains object definitions to support the functionality of these devices as used for transportation and traffic monitoring applications. The standard includes conformance group requirements and conformance statements to support compliance with the standard, as well as configuration and operations examples demonstrating different communications profiles.

Who uses them?

This standard, NTCIP 1209 - Object Definitions for Transportation Sensor Systems (TSS), should be used by transportation and traffic engineers involved with the design, specification, selection, procurement and installation, operation, and maintenance of transportation sensor systems. ITS product 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 1209 - Object Definitions for Transportation Sensor Systems (TSS), defines a vocabulary of "objects" used to assure that the transportation management center computer-based devices, and transportation sensor systems "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 transportation sensor systems.

This standard must be used with one of the NTCIP communications profiles (see related NTCIP documents below) which provide the communications channel for information transfer between devices. It must be used with the NTCIP Global Object Definitions (NTCIP 1201), which provides the glossary of common object definitions used by multiple NTCIP devices.


Communications between a transportation management center’s central computer and transportation sensor systems as well as communications from local traffic controllers to TSS are accomplished by using the objects defined in NTCIP 1209 - Object Definitions for Transportation Sensor Systems (TSS). These objects define the information, commands and responses that must be understood by the devices at both ends of the communications channel.

Related documents

The following ITS standards and documents are related and should be considered when using this standard:

The following 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