Big data is where it’s at. At least, that’s what we’ve been told. So it should come as no surprise that businesses are busy imagining ways they can take advantage of big data analytics to grow their companies. Many of these uses are fairly well documented, like improving marketing efforts, or gaining a better understanding of their customers, or even figuring out better ways to detect and prevent fraud. The most common big data use cases have become an important part of industries the world over, but big data can be used for much more than that. In fact, many companies out there have come up with creative and unusual uses for big data analytics, showing just how versatile and helpful big data can be.

1. Parking Lot Analytics

Every business is trying to gauge how well they are doing, and big data is an important part of that. Perhaps some study the data that comes from their websites, or others look at how effective their marketing campaigns are. But can businesses measure their success by studying their parking lots? One startup is doing that very thing. Using satellite imagery and machine learning techniques, Orbital Insight is working with dozens of retail chains to analyze parking lots. From this data, the startup says it can assess the performance of each company without needing further information. Their algorithm uses deep learning to delve into the numbers and find unique insights.

2. Dating Driven By Data

Big data is changing the way people date. Many dating websites, like eHarmony, use the data they compile on their users to come up with better matches, increasing the odds they’ll find someone they’re compatible with. With open source tools like Hadoop, dating sites can gain detailed data on users through answers to personal questions as well as through behaviors and actions taken on the site. As dating sites collect more data on their customers, they’ll be able to more accurately predict who matches well with whom.

3. Data at the Australian Open

Many sports have adopted big data to get a better understanding of their respective games, but big data is also being used in a business sense in the sports world. The Australian Open relies heavily on big data during the tournament in response to the demands of tennis fans around the world. With big data, they can optimize tournament schedules and analyze information like social media conversations and player popularity. From there, the data is used to predict viewing demands on the tournament’s website, helping organizers determine how much computing power they need at any given time.

4. Dynamic Ticket Pricing

The NFL is also using big data analytics to boost their business. While it might seem like the NFL doesn’t need help in this regard, they still want to use big data to increase ticket sales. The goal is to institute variable ticket pricing, which has already been implemented by some teams. Using big data, NFL teams can determine the level of demand for specific games based on factors like where it falls in the season, who the opponent is, and how well the home team is playing. If it’s determined demand is high, ticket prices will go up. If demand is predicted to be low, prices will go down, hopefully increasing sales. With dynamic ticket pricing, fans wouldn’t have to pay high prices for games that are in low demand, creating more interest in the product, especially if a team is struggling.

5. Ski Resorts and Big Data

Many ski resorts are truly embracing the possibilities of big data. This is done through basic ideas, like saving rental information, but it can also be used to prevent ticket fraud, which can take out a good chunk of revenue. Most impressively is how big data is used to increase customer engagement through the use of gamification. With Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems, resorts can actually track skiers, compiling stats like number of runs made, number of feet skied, and how often they get to the slopes. This data can be accessed on a resort’s website where skiers can compete with their friends, earning better rankings and rewards which encourage them to spend more time on the slopes.

These cases show that with a bit of creative thinking, big data can help businesses in more ways than one. As companies become more familiar working with big data, it’s easy to see how unique and innovative solutions will likely become the norm. As unusual as some of these uses may be, they may represent only the beginning of many unique ventures in the future.