The rapid growth of mobile and trendy applications like Foursquare have put a spotlight on the need for so-called point of interest data -- latitude and longitude for museums and attractions, but also for all businesses as well. And where there is a need, there is opportunity.

Not surprisingly, traditional B2B databases compilers such as InfoGroup and Acxiom have stepped into the geocoding fray. I previously wrote about an interesting company called Placecast that launched a product called MatchAPI that attempted to reconcile the varying results produced by the various geo-coding vendors, and ambitious master data play.

Of course, when a need for data like this crops up, somebody immediately starts to figure out how to give it away for free. In this case, it's a company called Factual, which through its "Free Database of Place," is giving away geo-location data on over 14 million businesses. You can see an actual sample of the dataset by clicking here.

This is exciting news for data publishers who would like to do more with mapping and adding other types of geo-aware intelligence to their data products. At the same time, it's a rude reminder that it's hard to maintain a proprietary data edge in this world. Of course, if Factual wants to deliver good quality data, that means real costs associated with data compilation and maintenance (and oh how often we see brash young start-ups that made no provision to maintain their data!), which ultimately means that some revenue will have to be generated. But for now at least, here's a valuable, free dataset that you can use to kick-start your thinking about the many ways you can make your data geo-aware, especially as mobile access continues to proliferate.