01 March 2023 / Last updated: 01 Mar 2023

Creating an IoT marketplace and launching Fleets for Good

Today we’re launching a big update to balenaHub, creating a marketplace to find and share resources for IoT building products and services. Alongside, we’re launching Fleets for Good (formerly open fleets), our way of sharing our technology to enable users who want to use our platform for a good cause.
balenaHub rebrand
Back in November 2020 we launched the first iteration of balenaHub. Then in May 2021 we added open fleets and self-serve submission of apps and blocks. Since then we’ve been learning and iterating, which has culminated in the realization that we need to give the design and structure a significant rework in order to make it easier to understand and use.
Fast-forward to today, and we’re relaunching balenaHub taking into account conventions used by marketplaces everywhere. Since launch, we’ve struggled to communicate to our users what balenaHub is, what the resources there are for and how they work. We believe the unconventional user-interface was part of the issue here, and so we’re now aiming to follow well-established marketplace conventions. Then, we’re going to focus on developing functionality surrounding our apps and blocks, and giving a tighter integration with the balenaCloud dashboard where you make use of and manage everything on balenaHub.

Fleets for Good

As a team, we at balena have for a long time wanted to give back to our community by enabling non-profit and non-commercial use cases that aim to do good in the world. Our specialty is that of IoT device provisioning and fleet management, and so the most obvious thing we can do is find a way to give our expertise in the form of our platform and products. Fleets for Good is our way of giving our platform and products for free so we can join together and make an impact.
Whether you want to help others measure the air quality in their homes or you’re a collective working to further research for a global initiative, we want to help your cause by enabling you to use our tools free of charge.
Fleets for Good lets members join and contribute their devices in the easiest way possible with no sign-up required for users who are contributing their device. The fleet owner then has the ability to access, manage and use the device to further the cause, and has the responsibility of maintaining the fleet as an open, non-commercial project. Fleets for Good have no device limit, encouraging owners to try and get more users to support and grow their fleets to achieve something good.
To create a Fleet for Good is a purely self-serve action that can be performed on a fleet using the settings in the balenaCloud dashboard, but we’d love to talk to you about your plans and ideas for using the functionality! Get in touch at: [email protected]
Fleets for Good are not intended for management of devices for personal use, given that the device owner hands over control of their hardware to the fleet owner and places trust in them to manage their device. When using a Fleet for Good, the device owner is not able to manage, view logs, or have visibility over their device in any way. Such use cases are a better fit for an App which the user can install and manage themselves - see below.

Apps & Blocks

Alongside Fleets for Good, we’re bringing forward the concepts of Apps and Blocks into the balenaHub update and working on better communicating what they are and how they work.
Road to multi-app
Apps are designed to be deployed to a fleet, which can contain any number of devices. An App can be deployed to a fleet of thousands of devices for an enterprise use case with the exact same ease of deployment that can be used to deploy a single device in a home for use as a media player. We launched the concept of Apps on balenaHub and balenaCloud last year.
In order to deploy an App to a device, it’s required to sign up for a balenaCloud account since you’re then managing your own fleet and responsible for the devices. This also means you retain full control of the device and have access to all balenaCloud features such as logging and configuration. In the future we’ll be working on enabling you to install multiple apps side by side on one fleet of devices.
Apps are intended to be used by users, developers and fleet owners alike, providing an easy way to get up and running.
Blocks were introduced at the end of 2020 and are designed to be small, reusable parts of functionality that you can use to construct Apps. Blocks are intended to be pieced together by developers into functioning products. They're purposefully simple and generic in order to be able to fit the widest variety of use cases possible.
We see both Apps and Blocks as valuable resources when developing IoT products and so we’re committed to continue building out the functionality surrounding them based on your feedback, and to continuing to reduce friction for fleet owners.

Integration with balenaCloud

Given balenaHub is full of resources to help when building IoT products and services, it makes sense that we integrate with balenaCloud - the platform for IoT fleet and device management. With this update, we’re increasing the level of integration between balenaHub and balenaCloud, creating the pathway for us to continue reducing friction for fleet owners.
It’s our aim to make it as easy as possible for our users and customers to both publish resources on balenaHub (from balenaCloud) and to take advantage of resources available on balenaHub by pulling them back into their balenaCloud fleets.
balenaHub <> balenaCloud crosslinking
As a result you’ll now notice more crosslinking between balenaCloud and balenaHub.

Watch this space

We’ll continue to develop balenaHub and balenaCloud, working on projects such as secure boot, device preloading, multi-architecture support as well as app installation on fleets. For more future plans, be sure to keep an eye on our public roadmap - you can add any features you’d like to see as well as upvote any already there that will help your use case.
Thanks for coming with us on this journey!
by Chris Crocker-WhiteHardware Hacker turned Product guy turned co-CEO