After downloading and installing the iPhone/iPad app, start it up.
The first time you start the app, the system asks you to give OwnTracks access to your location which it requires in order to, well, find your location.
Access settings and the individual modes by pressing on the
I on the top left.
The Friends feature shows self and all Friends published by the server, their picture or OwnTracks default icon, and their last location. Tapping on the entry switches back to map centered on friend's last location.
The first time you launch the app you'll also be asked whether it may access your contacts data, which you should allow. (If you change your mind later, Privacy in General settings allows you to disable the feature.)
Tapping on an location entry centers the map on the selected location.
No geo-coding is done automatically in the background to limit mobile data usage.
Location indicators and friendly faces
The locations of yourself, your friends and of the waypoints you set are displayed on the map. The inner area of the circle either shows a picture of yourself / your friend or the Tracker ID (tid) which is usually 2 characters and defaults to the last two characters of the publish topic.
A red, yellow rimmed tachometer indicating the velocity (speed) at the reported location starts at at the 6 o'clock position and works clockwise. It uses a logarithmic scale to show slow speeds as good as high speeds. The 9 o'clock position indicates a speed of 30 km/h, the 12 o'clock posistion a speed of 100 km/h. 3 o'clock means 180 km/h.
A small blue, yellow rimmed semicircle at the perimeter indicates the course over ground (direction of movement) with the 12 o'clock position meaning North.
If your iOS addressbook has an entry for, say, Jane Jolie, and Jane has an image associated with her addressbook entry, OwnTracks will show Jane's image on the map and on the Friends list, as soon as a location update for Jane is seen by the app.
In order to associate an MQTT topic with our friend (Jane, in this case), edit your addressbook entry on iOS for Jane and do either of the following:
- Create a new relationship (like 'Spouse') called
OwnTracks(case insensitive), and add your friend's topic name to that (e.g.
The addressbook API might need a while to be refreshed, but you may be able to speed that up by swiping the Friends list downward until the activity indicator appears, then let go).
Tap the Bookmark Button in the Navigation Bar on the Location screen. Select an entry from your Address Book. The entry will be marked with a relationship to the current friend's topic name.
Region Monitoring and Waypoints
For all manually published locations, a description, a region radius and a share flag can be edited.
Setting the description of a location helps you to remember places.
If a description is entered and the share flag set, the location is published to the MQTT broker as a
If the description is non-empty and a radius > 0 (meters) is set, the app starts monitoring the circular region around the coordinate. A region may be 'waypoint'. The regions are shown on the map as blue-ish circles. If the device is within a region, the corresponding circle turns red-ish.
If the description is non-empty and includes a value UUID for an iBeacon, the app starts monitoring the iBeacon region. e.g. 'myBeacons:CA271EAE-5FA8-4E80-8F08-2A302A95A959' monitors any iBeacon identified with UUID = CA..., with major and minor numbers irrelevant.
Everytime the devices enters or leaves a monitored region, an additional location message is published to the MQTT broker.
home region to insure that the device publishes a new location when coming home or leaving home even if you do not move more than 500m.
Share your favorite places with your friends ("Best Sushi in Town").
Keep a private note ("Parked Car here").
Use iBeacons to accurately report enter/leave events for your home
* Use iBeacons to publish enter/leave events for individual rooms/floors in your home
See also Waypoints.
Region monitoring (a.k.a. Geo Fences)
If the waypoint description is non-empty and a radius > 0 (meters) is set, the app starts monitoring the circular region around the specified coordinates. Regions are shown on the map as blue-ish circles. If the device is within a region, the corresponding circle turns red-ish. Every time the devices enters or leaves a monitored region, an additional location message is published to the MQTT broker, specifying whether the device is entering or leaving said region.
For example, you can define a home region to ensure that the device publishes a new location when coming home or leaving home even if you do not move more than 500m. Share your favorite places with your friends ("Best Sushi in Town"). Keep a private note ("Parked Car here").
Region Monitoring with iBeacons
Rather than setting the radius, you may add your iBeacon's UUID and optionally major and minor numbers to the description to start region monitoring using iBeacons.
e.g. * 'myBeacon:CA271EAE-5FA8-4E80-8F08-2A302A95A959:0001:CAFE' reports region with description 'myBeacon' when the iBeacon identified with UUID = CA..., major = 0001 and minor = CAFE is in proximity
- 'myBeacons:CA271EAE-5FA8-4E80-8F08-2A302A95A959' reports region with description 'myBeacons' when any iBeacon identified with UUID = CA..., with major and minor numbers irrelevant is in proximity
You can help your friends customize their copy of OwnTracks with remote configuration.
Why do location publishes sometimes seem to cease to work?
Here's what happens:
If the app goes into Background, the connection is disconnected because the app cannot maintain the TCP connection in background.
If you bring the app back into foreground, the app will re-connect.
When a location change is recorded (no matter if manual, significant, move or region mode), a message is prepared and an attempt to connect to the broker is started. If there is an error, connect will be retried after 2, 4, 8, ..., 64, 64, .... seconds until it succeeds.
If the application is in background or is sent to the background, retries are restarted eventually - depending on iOS' background execution model about every 10 minutes.
With automatic modes switched off, even when bringing the app to foreground, no new location updates are generated.
Today Widget / Apple Watch
There is a "today Widget" you can enable in OwnTracks for iOS which will show friends and their distances from you. All friends which have a name are shown on the Today Widget or on the Apple Watch.
- A name is assigned either by linking a friend to an address book entry (remember we have two different ways to do that: One modifies the address book, the other one just keeps a pointer to the address book record in OwnTracks).
- or by sending a card.