Understanding the differences between NTCIP conformance and NTCIP compliance
Posted on 10.29.15

The National Transportation Communications for Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Protocol, or NTCIP, is a protocol that allows traffic devices to communicate with each other. Prior to the development of NTCIP, ITS devices and systems from different manufacturers were unable to communicate without a costly and time-consuming integration effort. Devices that support NTCIP are considered NTCIP “conformant”, which is a requirement in many bids or RFPs. Often times, the device must also meet the specific requirements, making the device “compliant.” Let’s explore the differences and what it means to be conformant and compliant.

Conformance vs. Compliance

It’s important to understand that conformance and compliance are not interchangeable terms. Whether a device is conformant or non-conformant is determined by how it relates to the NCTIP standard. Conforming to the NTCIP protocol requires meeting a list of minimum standards.

Compliance relates to the specifications within the bid or the RFP. Typically included in a bid or an RFP is a detailed list of NTCIP functions that the given device should have the ability to perform. The device must be able to support all of the requirements in order for it to claim compliance.

It is possible for a device to be NTCIP conformant and not be compliant with an RFP or bid. For example, a sign may have the ability to store 50 messages and 50 events. It meets the list of mandatory NTCIP requirements and is conformant to the NTCIP standard. However, if a bid specifies 250 messages and 250 events, the device is not compliant with the bid.


The number and scope of options within NTCIP is virtually limitless. The PRL, or Protocol Requirements List, is a means of standardizing the requested options. Essentially it’s a checklist within a standard. The objective of the PRL is to clarify the list of features that are required by the specifying organization. When creating a bid, an organization can use the PRL to specify which features they want the device to support. Vendors can then consult the standard PRL to determine if their device is compliant with the bid. The PRL lets both the specifying organization and vendor agree on what compliance means.


An additional method to communicate compliance is through a Protocol Information Conformance Statement, or PICS. PICS are created by the manufacturer and are a checklist that indicates which options are supported by a particular device. It clearly lists the functionality of the product using the PRL and can be used to verify conformance to the standard and compliance with the specifications.

For more information on NTCIP conformance and compliance, PRLs and PICS, visit our previous posts, What Is NTCIP?, NTCIP Protocol Requirements, and Creating a Better NTCIP Specification With the PRL.