Samsara CEO - ‘we’ve only scratched the surface of this data opportunity’

Derek du Preez Profile picture for user ddpreez June 15, 2022 Audio mode
Summary:
At Beyond 2022, the company’s user conference in San Francisco, we begin to get an understanding of Samsara’s longer term strategy for connected operations.

Image of Samsara CEO Sanjit Biswas on stage at Beyond 2022 conference
(Image taken by author)

Those of us that have worked in the technology industry for the past decade or so will be all too familiar with the promise of the ‘Internet of Things’. It has been lauded as the ‘next big thing’ since the advent of cloud computing, but has mostly failed to gain traction in any meaningful way in the enterprise. Samsara, however, appears to be changing that and is delivering some pretty impressive results. 

Company after company took to the stage today at Samsara Beyond 2022 to talk about how they’re either reducing their costs by millions of dollars or significantly improving worker safety, as a direct result of the vendor’s connected operations platform. This is no exaggeration - one company explained how by monitoring when their fleet of vehicles was actually running, they were able to reduce their tax bill by $10 million in one year. Another company reduced the number of accidents they had across their vehicle fleet by 30% in one year. 

It’s these results and the willingness to transparently put customers in front of us that suggests that Samsara is delivering on its promise. But what has been interesting about Beyond 2022 is that we are starting to get a pretty clear picture of where this company is headed - and it’s all about the data platform. 

By way of background, Samsara started out by providing fleet management solutions to small and mid-sized trucking businesses, connecting sensors in vehicles to its management software in the cloud to help track mileage and other performance indicators. The company now offers more sophisticated AI-enabled video solutions in-vehicle, where it actually coaches drivers to drive more safely. 

Samsara now also offers workflow technologies to companies with huge physical operations, which have largely been ignored by the enterprise technology industry and have been relying on manual processes. 

But the key thing to understand is that Samsara is connecting these physical environments to its Connected Operations Cloud and is using AI and machine learning to provide companies with the intelligence they need to run either more safely, more sustainably or more efficiently. And given the supply chain crisis, the labor market shortage and the inflationary cost pressures, Samsara is in a sweet spot that’s seemingly attracting attention. 

The company does have some challenges to overcome too. Namely that it will have to be actively involved in an education process with its customers about how to navigate behaviour change when being presented with new data, as well as figuring out which industries to target next and how to do that - but from where I’m standing, after what we’ve heard today, it seems that there is a lot of opportunity ahead for Samsara. 

Speaking on stage today, CEO Sanjit Biswas, said: 

We at Samsara believe the next big wave of technology transformation is not just about connecting people, it's about connecting things. Everything. 

And we think the most important part about all of this is the data - because that's what the smartphone revolution has taught us. The value of this data is absolutely tremendous because it makes it possible to make smarter decisions. 

It's not tech for tech sake. It's tech for the sake of impact. 

 What’s new?

Whilst much of what Samsara does results in efficiency gains, according to the companies we heard from today, it is also focused on improving the experience for the industrial workforce. And with talent shortages across many industries, we already know that ‘experience’ enabled by tech is an area that companies are looking to, to attract and retain talent. 

With this in mind, Samsara announced a number of new features today, including: 

  • Driver Workflows - designed to guide drivers and field operators through the most mission-critical parts of their day. With the general availability of end-of-day workflows, linked third-party tasks, and multiple workflows in the Samsara Driver App, administrators can help keep drivers safe and compliant, streamline access to tasks in external apps, and customize workflows to the needs of every driver.

  • In-Cab Nudges - giving drivers the opportunity to self-correct risky behavior after receiving an AI-powered in-cab alert, before a manager is notified. In-Cab Nudges will be available in open beta this fall.

  • Multi-Stop ETAs - providing dispatch and operations teams accurate, up-to-date predicted arrival times at all stops along all active routes. With end-to-end visibility into real-time trip progress, the aim is to allow Samsara customers to deliver more timely service to their customers. Multi-Stop ETAs is now generally available.

  • Remote Support - allowing administrators to view and control mobile devices from anywhere, to streamline troubleshooting, increase productivity, and support workers whether they’re on the road or in the field. Remote Support will be available in open beta this fall.

It’s all about the platform

But the key takeaway from the event this week is that most of Samsara’s emphasis about the future direction of the company lies in its data platform. The company already has 155 integrations across its platform, using open API access, for other software providers that focus on areas such as payroll, or maintenance, as examples. 

Today it announced new integrations with General Motors and Free2move. Speaking at the event, Biswas said: 

All of this is made possible by data - the idea that we can collect data at massive scale from all these sensors. But this data isn't limited just to the Samsara platform. We started hearing opportunities to use this data for even more. And that's where we went next. 

We took this data and connected it to systems all across the industry. We started breaking down silos because we heard from you that the same Samsara data is incredible, but that you’d love to use it to pay your drivers more effectively by connecting to your payroll systems. 

We started hearing from our insurance partners. Could we share that customer data for the benefit of the customer and use it to craft smarter, more efficient premiums? 

And we didn't just build a dozen partnerships. We have over 150. This is now the biggest data platform in our industry. And we're excited to continue to scale it to continue to unlock the value of this data, 

Because that is what's next, this idea that we can use data to do even more, to drive even more change. And as we scale the Samsara Connected Operations Cloud, with all of this data in a central place, what that does is it creates even more opportunities for impact. 

Because when you have all this data, you can do things like train better artificial intelligence models. None of this was possible before, all these systems were disconnected, and it is now just beginning to take on some steam. This is really exciting. 

My take

Biswas said on a couple of occasions that Samsara has only ‘scratched the surface’ of what’s possible with its platform. And part of this is because of scale. Samsara needed the data from its customers at scale in order to get the AI models working effectively. But now it can really offer differentiated intelligence, such as benchmarking data specific to a customer’s industry. 

Some of the customer stories we’ve heard today are really fascinating - how simple things like a driver being alerted that they’re unconsciously looking at their smartwatch too often while driving has reduced accidents on the road, or how companies are extending the life of their fleets by more effectively servicing them through the use of data. 

But it’s clear that Samsara is only just beginning, here. Whilst its focus at the moment is safety, efficiency and sustainability in the world of fleet management and ‘connected operations’ - there are many industries that have huge physical elements to them. Take retail, hospitality, healthcare; these are all industries I imagine would see similar benefits from becoming connected too. They just need an effective platform to do so…

There’s no real mention yet of Samsara expanding outwards into these verticals just yet, but by placing the data platform at the center of everything it does, you can imagine that’s what’s planned in its future. 

It’s early days, but Samsara is doing the right thing: it’s letting the customers talk for it. No hard sales pitch here this week, just sharing the stories across a variety of customers that appear very happy to tell their Samsara tale. 

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