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NTCIP 1210 - Field Management Stations (FMS) - Part 1: Object Definitions for Signal System Masters

This fact sheet was updated 9/18/2009. The version of the draft standard available for download is 1.46c, the second user comment draft. Version 1.52 has been approved as a recommended standard but is not yet available for download.

This Fact Sheet was written on September 18, 2009. The status of the standard at the time was: In Ballot.

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., signal systems) and calls these groupings "object definitions." The objects defined in this standard allow an operator to command and monitor signal system masters.

What are these standards for?

This standard, NTCIP 1210 - Field Management Stations - Part 1: Object Definitions for Signal System Masters, provides the vocabulary - commands, responses and information - necessary for traffic management and operations personnel to control, manage, and monitor signal system masters (SSMs) and signal system locals (SSLs) through the SSM. SSMs are commonly used when it is inconvenient or infeasible to provide reliable, full-time communications from the SSLs all the way to the transportation management center. The signal system master device acts as a surrogate for the traffic management system. The SSM provides various methods of managing a set of SSLs, which may include actuated signal controllers or other devices. The standard also provides a means for pass-through communications from a traffic management system to a local device. This standard includes a concept of operations, functional requirements, dialogs and interface specifications and contains object definitions to support the functionality of the SSM as used for coordinating sections of multiple intersections. The standard also includes a Protocol Requirements List (PRL) and a Requirements Traceability Matrix providing object conformity information.

Who uses them?

This standard, NTCIP 1210 - Field Management Stations - Part 1: Object Definitions for Signal System Masters, should be used by transportation and traffic engineers involved with the design, specification, selection, procurement and installation, operation, and maintenance of signal system masters. SSM 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 1210 - Field Management Stations - Part 1: Object Definitions for Signal System Masters, defines a vocabulary of "objects" used to assure that the transportation management center computer-based devices, and signal system masters "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.

NTCIP 1210 includes a Protocol Requirements List, which identifies user needs and functionalities, and relates them to requirements that must be fulfilled by the elements of the standard. The user should review the PRL to determine which functionalities are desired for a project. Those functionalities, as checked on the PRL, will identify which requirements must be fulfilled. The standard also includes a Requirements Traceability Matrix, which shows which objects in the standard fulfill the requirements identified in the PRL.

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 traffic control devices. In addition, NTCIP 1210 allows a pass-through capability so the Object Definitions for Actuated Traffic Signal Controller (ASC) Units (NTCIP 1202) can be communicated between the transportation management center and the ASC devices.


Communications between a transportation management center’s central computer and signal system masters is accomplished by using the objects defined in NTCIP 1210 - Field Management Stations - Part 1: Object Definitions for Signal System Masters. These objects define the information, commands and responses that must be understood by the devices at both ends of the communications channel. The title of this standard indicates that it is a "Part 1" with the foresight that additional field master stations could, in the future, go beyond signal controllers to include such devices as dynamic message signs, environmental sensor stations, CCTV camera controllers and ramp metering controllers. However, at this time there are no plans to develop a Part 2 standard for field management stations. The standard was developed using systems engineering processes, and includes a concept of operations, a protocol requirements list, functional requirements, and a requirements traceability matrix.

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