The development of DNP3 was a (and is an ongoing) comprehensive effort to achieve open, standards-based Interoperability between substation computers, RTUs, IEDs (Intelligent Electronic Devices) and master stations (except inter-master station communications) for the electric utility industry. Also important was the time frame; the need for a solution to meet today's requirements. As ambitious an undertaking as this was, we reached this objective. And since the inception of DNP, the protocol has also become widely utilized in adjacent industries such as water / waste water, transportation and the oil and gas industry.

DNP3 is based on the standards of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Technical Committee 57, Working Group 03 who defined an OSI 3 layer "Enhanced Performance Architecture" (EPA) protocol standard for telecontrol applications. DNP3 has been designed to be as close to compliant as possible to the standards as they existed at time of development with the addition of functionality not identified in Europe but needed for current and future North American applications (e.g. limited transport layer functions to support 2K block transfers for IEDs, RF and fiber support). DNP3 was selected as a Recommended Practice by the IEEE C.2 Task Force; RTU to IED Communications Protocol.

DNP3 was developed by Harris, Distributed Automation Products. In November 1993, responsibility for defining further DNP3 specifications and ownership of the DNP3 specifications was turned over to the DNP Users Group (DNP-UG), a group composed of utilities and vendors who are utilizing the protocol. DNP3 was first adopted as IEEE Std. 1815TM in 2010 and has been periodically updated since then.

DNP3 is an open and public protocol. In order to ensure interoperability, longevity and upgradeability of the protocol, the DNP-UG has taken ownership of the protocol and assumes responsibility for its evolution. The DNP-UG Technical Committee evaluates suggested modifications or additions to the protocol and then amends the protocol description as directed by the Users Group members.

Complete, comprehensive documentation of the protocol is available to the public. The Document Library contains the protocol specifications, as well as details of what is required at the different sublevels, how to implement secure authentication, how to create XML device profiles, and conformance test procedures.