What caught my eye about the recent press release from Placecast is that it is offering access to its giant database of geographic locations, positioning itself as the central reference standard. The need is specialized, but it’s big and real: locations can go by a lot of different names. What you call 123 East 45th Street, someone else might call 600 Fifth Avenue, and they’d both be right. Still another might call it “The Acme Building” and they would also be correct. These subtleties matter a lot when your business is about giving out directions or trying to determine if certain individuals are nearby.

But Placecast  is more than just a database being licensed to third parties. It  has also created cross-walks to all the other major location identification systems, making it possible to translate and normalize between systems. Even more interesting Placecast is encouraging content owners to contribute their location data in exchange for getting update location data in return.

Okay, as I said, it’s a specialized concept, which makes it hard to explain. But there’s a larger point that is easy to explain: chances are, the vertical market in which you operate has need for a standard reference database, whether of companies, people, products … whatever. The idea is that by leveraging your existing industry dataset (likely to already be one of the most complete in your industry), you can build a master data file for your industry that has almost endless applications. That’s because while most businesses rely on data to do business, they’re not very good at maintaining data. This makes them willing … often happy … to let a third party do it for them.

Too hard you say? Placecast is soliciting data “contributions” from others to build and maintain its database. Great idea. There are already reference databases in your industry? Placecast builds cross-references between them, creating another level of value.

What’s really great about being the central reference database for your industry is that you embed yourself deeply into critical systems of a large number of companies. Yup, infocommerce at its best.