2021 Slam Top 12 Finalists

Stijn's Interview with Brian Malow

"Twin Telepathy"

Stijn Wielandt

Earth & Env Sciences

Hi, I’m Stijn and I’m an electrical engineer at Berkeley Lab. But today, I will talk about my digital twin. He is also at the lab, and he works with earth and environmental scientists to make sure that people keep access to drinkable water as climate changes.

Now you must be wondering: what is a digital twin? Well, he’s a simulation of myself, running on our supercomputer at the lab. As you can see, he looks exactly like me, he also behaves like me, and we even have this telepathic twin connection, so he always feels exactly how I feel. And now you must be thinking: how is this possible? Well, as I said, I’m an electrical engineer and I developed these wireless sensors that measure my parameters and transmit them to the lab over 5G, so my digital twin can copy my behavior. And that’s very useful, because when I get sick, we can try different treatments on my twin, without having to experiment on the real me.

I can see that someone posted something in the chat: "Why did this nerd create a digital copy of himself in a simulation on a supercomputer? Aren’t there enough nerds at the lab already?” Auch!

There’s actually two answers here: First of all, there is no such thing as too many nerds at the lab. And second of all: you’re right, we don’t need a copy of myself at the lab, wether it’s digital or not. Instead, we are working on digital twins of ecosystems, like this watershed in the rocky mountains in Colorado. And these wireless sensors, they don’t really my parameters. There’s already enough 5G conspiracy theories out there. Instead, they monitor weather conditions, snow parameters, and water quality in the field. And so my challenge is not only to build, but also to connect hundreds of these sensors in the field with the supercomputer at the lab, because in the field we don’t have any cellular connectivity.

So I combine novel wireless technologies like 5G and long range transmissions, and I even design cell towers for the field that run on AA batteries. When we can transmit our sensor measurements in real time to the supercomputer over 5G, climate scientists at the lab can see how the snow starts melting in the spring, and how the rivers swell. And then they can simulate what will happen if you store that melt water in reservoirs, just like you would experiment with treatments on a sick digital twin. So that means that digital twins that use 5G equipped sensors can not only prevent floods, but they can also make sure that millions of Americans have year-long access to drinkable water. That’s great! High five!