Life At Samsara

How Samsara Engineers are Building the Future of Physical Operations

December 10, 2021

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By Kelly Koskelin and Rick Carragher

At Samsara, our engineers build sensors and software designed to make our customer’s operations safer, smarter, and more sustainable. Our customers span industries like construction, utilities, public transportation, and governments, whose physical operations make up 40% of the U.S. GDP. We’re excited to bring modern technologies to these underserved industries, and are already seeing our customers feel the impact of our platform with real results.

Safety: We’ve analyzed over 1 billion AI detections from Samsara Dash Cams to help us build smart tools that mitigate dangerous habits that can cause road accidents, significantly improving safety.

Efficiency: Solutions like our digital Documents feature and mobile Driver App help our customers save hours of manual work, and during the height of the pandemic, helped essential businesses and minimized exposure risk for drivers.

Sustainability: Transportation and industrial businesses account for 60% of U.S. energy consumption, so we’re thrilled to see our customers using Samsara to reduce their carbon footprint. For example, the City of Sacramento uses our idling detection tool to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 5%. 

There are so many potential opportunities to find new and innovative ways to support this industry with our technology. In this post, we’ll discuss the technologies we use and how we work as a team to solve our customer’s biggest challenges. 

Deploying technology to solve tomorrow’s business problems

Many organizations looking to optimize their operations must deal with data that is fragmented across different tools and platforms, or that is missing altogether.

Samsara’s Connected Operations Cloud provides customers with the critical visibility they need to significantly improve the efficiency, safety, and sustainability in which they operate. Our systems enable our customers to harness the power of data to solve business problems by:

1. Digitizing the physical world. Our hardware engineers design plug-and-play, ruggedized IoT devices that operate in challenging conditions to gather a reliable, high-quality stream of data. Firmware engineers write C and Go that run on these devices to capture raw inputs from various connected hardware in the field. These devices also run deep neural networks that enable real-time decision making while operating under strict temperature, power, and network constraints. Industry gold-standard tooling for building distributed systems (Protocol Buffers, strongly typed interfaces, test infrastructure, and automation) extend to our device-level firmware code to ensure safe, seamless, and rapid development all the way up and down the stack. We do this all at scale: over 1.5 million Samsara devices have been shipped connecting over 500,000 vehicles and equipment. Read an example of how we monitor and control temperature in refrigerated trailers.

engineering hardware

2. Processing huge volumes of data. We process 2 trillion sensor data points annually: video, images, and time series data like temperature and GPS readings are constantly being uploaded and need to be processed quickly. Any delay in processing means we can’t deliver real-time features, so our ingestion engineering team builds specialized infrastructure using tools like AWS Kinesis to ensure high uptime and latency guarantees. Our data engineering team also makes this data available for deeper offline analysis via Spark and Databricks.

3. Delivering advanced data-driven insights. Our Machine Learning teams harness our real-world data (i.e., over 38 billion minutes of video a year) to deliver insights where they matter most. For example, we’ve trained a vehicle collision warning model that runs on Samsara Dash Cams that notifies drivers before a possible collision occurs. Bringing plug-and-play IoT functionality like this to any vehicle means our customers can ensure their fleet meets modern best-in-class technology standards both in and outside the cab. Learn more about how AI models deployed at the edge alert drivers and prevent accidents before they happen.

4. Providing a single source of truth. The Samsara Connected Operations Cloud integrates disparate data sets and provides a unified user experience across desktop and mobile. Before using Samsara, our customers toggled between an average of four or more different software applications in order to manage their fleets. With our dashboard, they can see all of their devices and data in a single pane of glass. This gives them an unprecedented level of visibility into their businesses. Thanks to our selection of extensible technologies like Typescript, React, ReactNative, and GraphQL, we can easily repurpose components and data sources for use in mobile applications, giving our customers a cohesive, user-friendly experience across platforms.

The complexity of the problems Samsara is solving, and the fact that we have a uniform toolchain across firmware and backend software, means that engineers have the opportunity to work on a wide range of technologies—embedded firmware, big data, cloud services, AI, mobile, or web client. We've only scratched the surface of the ways we can bring more safety, efficiency, and sustainability to our customers around the world.

Cultural values that engineer success

As our customers undergo digital transformation and accelerate their use of technology, opportunities emerge to solve more problems for our customers. To do this, it’s important that we’re building an engineering culture that supports innovation.

At Samsara, we embrace five cultural values that shape how our engineering team works together: 

Focus on customer success: Our engineering culture is deeply rooted in helping our customers. Engineers join customer calls and meet with our customers whenever possible. This contributes to a better customer experience and a happier engineer who truly understands how their work is helping people. It’s not about creating technology for technology’s sake, but solving hard, real-world problems. 

Build for the long term: The digital transformation our solutions enable won't happen overnight, and we are committed to building at a sustained pace to make that happen. We value improving our architecture, maintainability in code, leveraging automations to ensure quality, and launching it right the first time.

Adopt a growth mindset: Our team is full of curious people who seek challenges and opportunities to make the best use of new technologies. We encourage continuous learning with peer-coordinated tech talks, workshops, and working groups. Samsara also offers employees a quarterly “Hootfund” to spend on personal and professional development. We’re not afraid to take risks and we encourage everyone to learn and teach, ask questions, seek and encourage feedback, and examine failures as well as successes.

Be inclusive: Everyone belongs at Samsara. We believe in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in order to create an environment where people can bring their whole, authentic selves to work. We support our team with employee resource groups like Dev Underrepresented Genders, which empowers gender minorities within engineering at Samsara. We’re also proud to have made a commitment to achieve long-term DEI goals, which you can read more about on our careers page

Win as a team: We operate with respect within a community that supports each other. We take action where it’s needed, recognize high-quality work, and emphasize delivering incremental value. We believe good ideas can come from anywhere and encourage an ownership mindset.

We’re at the beginning of our journey

Samsara is positioned to lead the digital transformation of the world’s operations. We’re only at the beginning of this exciting journey, and we expect to see the technology we build today evolve over a generation and have tremendous long-term impact. 

We are helping more and more customers with our core business. And, because of how closely we partner with our customers, we're able to discover new ways to help them. As we scale, we’ll use this tried and true approach, employing our values to develop new solutions to our customers’ business problems while ensuring the quality of our product is world-class from a reliability, performance, and user experience perspective.

Samsara is hiring, and we’re looking for people who are interested in tackling real-world challenges to make a positive impact on the world. Take some time to review our open roles and consider joining our team.

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Special thanks to Kenshiro Nakagawa, Edwin Zhang, and Evan Meagher for their contributions to this piece.

You can learn more about Samsara's engineering challenges and culture by visiting our engineering blog.

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