Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) are publicly announced standardizations developed by the United States federal government for compulsory use in computer systems by all non-military government agencies and by government contractors, when properly invoked and tailored on a contract. The purpose of FIPS is key escrow, and to ensure that all federal government and agencies adhere to the same guidelines regarding security and communication.
In 1994 NOAA began broadcasting coded signals called FIPS (Federal Information Processing System) codes along with their standard weather-broadcasts from local stations. These codes identify the type of emergency and the specific geographic area, such as a county, affected by the emergency.
In 2008, NIST withdrew the FIPS 55-3 database. This database included 5-digit numeric place codes for cities, towns, and villages, or other centers of population in the United States. The codes were assigned alphabetically to places within each state, and as a result changed frequently in order to maintain the alphabetical sorting. NIST replaced these codes with the more permanent GNIS Feature ID, maintained by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. The GNIS database is the official geographic names repository database for the United States, and is designated the only source of geographic names and locative attributes for use by the agencies of the Federal Government. FIPS 8-6 "Metropolitan Areas" and 9-1 "Congressional Districts of the U.S." were also withdrawn in 2008, to be replaced with INCITS standards 454 and 455, respectively.
The U.S. Census Bureau used FIPS place codes database to identify legal and statistical entities for county subdivisions, places, and American Indian areas, Alaska Native areas, or Hawaiian home lands when they needed to present census data for these areas. In response to the NIST decision, the Census Bureau is in the process of transitioning over to the GNIS Feature ID, which will be completed after the 2010 Census. Until then, previously issued FIPS place codes, renamed "Census Code," will continue to be used, with the Census bureau assigning new codes as needed for their internal use during the transition.