​Unusual Uses For Big Data

It is not all business optimization and web analytics


We hear about the use of Big Data everywhere, from the way that we are tracked when we browse sites on the web, to the ways in which companies are optimizing their operations through identifying potential opportunities.

However, Big Data goes well beyond these relatively limited functions, it is being used for hundreds of different tasks, some of which seem totally removed from what many consider to be the core functions of Big Data.

We have outlined five of the more off the wall uses that we have come across:


Big Data has found a use in being able to track animals and their populations in remote inhospitable regions.

Through using cameras and image recognition software, the thousands of images taken by motion sensitive cameras can be analyzed to help establish the numbers and environments of some of the world’s most endangered animals.

HP have teamed up with Conservation International (CI) to place a series of cameras to help track the migration, population and habitat of some of the world’s most endangered animals. Being able to quickly analyze these photos to disseminate the numbers across time is vital to the success of the programme.


Unlike endangered animals, hipsters seem to be everywhere and they have polarizing opinions for people. Some love to be surrounded by handlebar moustaches and fancy coffees, others can’t think of anything worse.

Bizarrely, Big Data can help with this.

Yelp have used data gleamed from reviews to identify the concentrations of certain keywords and used this to create heat maps in various cities. This includes things like ‘hipster’,’tourist’ and ‘cheap’. This then helps to inform people of the areas to go if they want to either avoid or find one particular element.

You can check it out here.


Bras have not changed dramatically in the last 50 years, but according to studies most women wear the wrong size. True&co are using Big Data to try and end this by making customers fill in a short survey where the answers are then put through an algorithm to establish whether or not they are using the wrong size. From this information they are then given suggestions on different brands or sizes.


RFID chips have started to become well used in larger sporting events, but have also found a use on the slopes where people can be tracked to help prevent fraud and also to find people if they are lost on the slopes.

It also gives a unique perspective for both the skiers themselves and for those managing the slopes. For the individual, they can be given information about the number of runs they have done within a particular time or the amount of vertical metres that they cover. In terms of slope management, companies can see where crowds are and where people congregate.


Perhaps the strangest use of Big Data has been in billboard advertising.

Here, advertising companies have been able to establish how many people have actually looked at an advert through sensors that can pick up eye contact. It has meant that rather than simply looking at how many people walk past one area, the rates are based on how many of them actually engage with the ad.

All of the information is then fed back to the company and advertising rates can be established and altered based on the ongoing success of a particular ad placement. 


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