At the VERGE Salon in New York City, "Next-Gen Buildings and Cities," experts explained the many beneficial roles data will play in making cities more sustainable. The ability to collect data in real-time from buildings' energy use, transit networks and micro-climate will aid understanding of how city systems interact with one another.

It is estimated that over the next twenty years the equivalent of nearly 1.4 million people will move to cities across the globe each day. That's the population of Maine moving to a metropolitan area every day. Not only is the move to cities inherently more sustainable as city inhabitants require less space and less travel, but as infrastructure is updated to include Energy Management Systems and next generation buildings that monitor energy use, data will inform smart growth.

Designers and urban planners will have the opportunity to use already existing data to understand what makes cities more efficient in a particular climate: what works, what doesn't work and how people use the spaces they live and work in. In her introductory remarks, VERGE program director Elaine Hseih notes, "it helps to see challenges for their systemic nature. "When you see systemic challenges, you can come up with systemic solutions."

Despite the many challenges planners will face when it comes to sustainability from the building scale to the entire city, big data will inform big solutions.

Read more from the expert remarks at the event on GreenBiz.