Unlocking & Empowering your Understanding of the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) – Part 2

by Innovit Corporate Affairs | August 17, 2022 | Blog

Getting Started With the GDSN  

In our previous blog, we discussed what the GDSN is.  In today’s blog, we’ll go over what companies can expect and should prepare for when starting their GDSN journey.    

As with any journey, how you start can make a big difference, and starting your GDSN journey is no different.   

As you may recall, the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN) is the world’s largest network of product databases that facilitates the sharing of standardized product and medical device data.  GDSN is a flexible & extendable ‘master data exchange’ standard and is designed to handle a wide range of business use cases.  It’s literally a ‘one size fits all’ data model, so having a clear, focused approach to GDSN is key for any company.  

The first consideration before getting started may seem obvious, yet many people don’t take the time to evaluate if using GDSN is even important to their business.  Despite abundant stats on GDSN adoption, the majority of products in circulation today are not registered on the GDSN, and a majority of companies and regulatory agencies around the world are still NOT using the GDSN.  Granted that a lot of notable organizations are using this network, but understanding your company’s goals, objectives, and expectations for product data exchange are key, regardless of whether you are looking to publish or source high quality product data.  Ask yourself: 

  • What trading partners or regulatory agencies are you looking to connect with  
  • Do those organizations participate in the GDSN today?   
  • Are the specific products or devices you’re looking for on the GDSN?   


Once you’ve established that there is value in exchange product data and/or establishing connection points with trading partners, you will need to determine what shape your current product master data is in.  Then you need to assess the capability of your internal systems to inter-operate with the GDSN, that is, what is required to make your product data ‘GDSN ready’, and what might it take for your systems to connect to the GDSN.  What are the specific data and attribute requirements?  Do you have the attribution in your current systems to satisfy those specifications?  Are those data and systems accessible?  There are experienced third party service providers who can provide situational insights that will save you a lot of time and effort.  For example, GS1 member organizations, atrify, 1WorldSync, just to name a few.   

Another key piece to implement GDSN is the use of GS1 product identifiers.  At its core, the GDSN network relies on the use of two GS1 identifiers.  One is the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) and the other is the Global Location Number (GLN).  A GTIN is a 14-digit globally unique identifier that is built from a GS1 Company Prefix and is used to identify uniquely a product around the world.  Note that same old ‘legacy’ GTINs may be 12 or 13 digits as well.  The GLN is a 13-digit identifier that identifies the entity (i.e. a company or agency) associated with the product or information exchange.  A GLN also uses the GS1 Company Prefix and is required for any organization participating on the GDSN.   If you currently do not use GTINs and GLNs, you will need to assess how you might implement these and obtain a license for your GS1 Company Prefix.  Again, getting help from experienced consultants is worth every penny in developing your strategy around GS1 Company Prefixes, GTINs, and GLNs. 

Finally, the Global Data Synchronization Network only allows access through a series of interconnected and interoperable Data Pools and companies and agencies can only gain access to the GDSN network by joining a Certified GDSN Data Pools.  Joining a GDSN Data Pools typically requires a fee and may include additional services and capabilities beyond the core GDSN connectivity.   Some Data Pools are ‘barebones’ and provide only basic access to GDSN while other Data Pools offer additional capabilities around master data management, direct integration, Digital Assets Management (DAM), as well as robust Product Information Management (PIM) capabilities.  It is important to keep in mind that all GDSN Data Pools are interoperable – regardless of size, cost, services, or complexity.  They all follow the same global data dictionary, attribute naming conventions, messaging standards, valid code lists, and most important, they will get you on to the GDSN!  

Next time, we take a closer look at the GDSN from various perspectives such as that of a manufacturer, distributor, GPO, and healthcare provider.