THE MAN WHO VANQUISHED THE METER READER
Some of us are old enough to remember the rap on the screen door, the gruff voice announcing “Gas man!” and how readily mom told him to come on in. He was already halfway down the basement stairs, flashlight in hand, heading for the gas meter. Just as quickly, he was back out the door and on to the next house.
It was a painfully inefficient means of calculating gas and water usage by thousands of customers and the energy industry had long sought a solution.
Larry Sears found it circa 1992. By designing a system of dedicated radio channels, long before cell phones or WIFI, he made it possible for utility meters to be read remotely. Today his technology dominates the market, but this is not a story of overnight success.
The 1969 graduate of Case Institute of Technology endured an entrepreneur’s odyssey after launching his electronics startup in Cleveland’s Little Italy, next door to campus. He still shudders to pass a Holiday Inn, he says, having spent so much time at trade shows trying to sell his invention.
He persevered. Today, he looks proudly upon Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box], the innovation center that he and his wife helped build with a $10 million gift. He shares his belief in hands-on engineering as an adjunct professor at the Case School of Engineering, and he’s a familiar sight on campus in his exquisitely restored classic sports car.
Listen as we chat with Larry Sears about engineering, entrepreneurship, and coming out a winner.
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