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Jeff Smith, CSE Alumnus and Entrepreneur, Follows His Passion

Monday, June 26, 2017

Jeff Smith has been on the leading edge of technology for his entire life. He started one of the first Internet providers in the Southwest and has worked with everything from telemetry to sensors to the Internet of Things. His passion lies in robotics and artificial intelligence – he has a 700-square-foot robotics lab in his home instead of a man cave – and the experience gained in a wide-ranging career helps him pursue that passion.

Jeff Smith“I’ve started several companies and been perceived as a visionary, but I’ve been fortunate to follow my passion in nascent technology. I’m not a visionary – I just did what was interesting,” he explained.

Smith’s career started at Motorola, where he designed some of the first two-way radios with telemetry, which were the precursors to cellphones. He left Motorola to complete his master’s degree and was a graduate assistant at the Automation and Robotics Research Institute (now the UTA Research Institute), which morphed into various projects, including flying robots.

After earning his degree, Smith began working at the Texas Supercolliding Superconductor, where he met his wife and acquired skills that led to his founding OnRamp Verio, one of the first Internet providers in the United States, after Congress eliminated funding for the facility in 1993. It was the first of many companies that Smith started, and he attributes his success to the interaction of his experience in sensors, networks, and internet services.

“A lot of things we’ve done have to do with automation. Networking is the most important part, then transmitting data back and forth, then writing applications to manipulate data, then integrating network systems and AI. I’m much more of a maverick because I’m an applied scientist rather than a theoretical one,” he said.

“I’ve started several companies and been perceived as a visionary, but I’ve been fortunate to follow my passion in nascent technology. I’m not a visionary – I just did what was interesting,” he explained.

Smith, who earned his doctoral degree from UTA in 2004, has hired hundreds of UTA alumni over the years, including in his current position as managing director of QuantumIOT, a systems integration company that he founded. He is also CTO of CatapultHealth, a remote telehealth company that hires dozens of UTA nursing graduates in Dallas and San Antonio.

“Everyone who knows of me expects that I’m hiring engineers, but I work for a company that hires nurse practitioners. You’re expected to go through a degree path, but not to look at other departments. UTA has one of the best nursing programs in the nation. Why wouldn’t I leverage that?” Smith said.

Away from his career, Smith has dedicated considerable effort to help people in Honduras, where he was able to get donated goods from the U.S. sent down in empty banana shipping containers and where he helped to open a TV repair shop, a bodega, a cucina, an internet café, a leather purse factory, and a tattoo removal clinic, where teen girls who got gang-insignia tattoos to protect them from rape and murder can get those tattoos removed and get jobs later in life.

It’s not what people know him for, but it’s just another facet of the passion that has driven him his whole life. 

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