In July 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded a $650,000 grant to the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to look into better sensor technologies to aid in flood management. Up until that point, sensors cost anywhere from $25,000 to $75,000. John Miri, chief administrative officer for LCRA, knew they could do better.
“To me, an electronic device that costs $25,000, that only does a few things, is almost morally offensive,” said Miri. After sending out notices for potential partners, LCRA began working with a startup creating the same type of sensors that cost $200 to $2,500. While the tests are ongoing, the potential savings would be significant. This could free up funds for a more robust sensor network, providing better information, and ultimately better equipping the LCRA to protect the public.
Miri has always been interested in creating a better solution so long as it leads to a tangible improvement. “I always liked this idea of discovery, but only in the sense that the discoveries could be leveraged to improve people’s lives and provide better services.” That attitude led Miri to help start six high-tech startups.
“Starting your career in startups, you’re kind of ruined for life,” said Miri in explaining why he’s never satisfied with the status quo. And being on the maker side of many software tools taught him that each tool is created by someone just like him. “It gave me a taste that anything is possible. You can solve some really hard, really expensive problems with technology if you have the courage to break open the box.”
Miri has built his career, which included several leadership positions at the Texas Department of Information Resources, on breaking open those boxes and continuing to innovate wherever possible in order to help people, reflecting a steadfast commitment to the end game of public service. “If a piece of technology is whiz-bang, but it doesn’t do anything for anyone, is it really a tool?”