OwnTracks publishes its message payloads in JSON format. The different payload types are identified by a _type element. Depending on the app platform, different payload types are supported.

_type iOS Android
location Y Y
lwt Y Y
waypoint Y Y
transition Y Y
beacon Y N
cmd Y Y
steps Y N
configuration Y Y
card Y Y
waypoints Y Y
encrypted Y Y


In MQTT mode the apps publish to:

  • owntracks/user/device with _type=location for location updates, and with _type=lwt
  • owntracks/user/device/cmd with _type=cmd for remote commands
  • owntracks/user/device/event with _type=transition for enter/leave events

Apps subscribe to:

  • owntracks/user/device/cmd if remote commands are enabled
  • owntracks/+/+ for seeing other user's locations, depending on broker ACL
  • owntracks/+/+/event (singular) for transition messages (enter/leave)
  • owntracks/+/+/waypoint (singular) for Waypoint definitions/modifications
  • owntracks/+/+/info for obtaining cards.

In addition, the iOS app publishes to:

  • owntracks/user/device/step to report step counter
  • owntracks/user/device/beacon for beacon ranging
  • owntracks/user/device/dump for config dumps

In HTTP mode the apps POST their data to a single endpoint you configure. That endpoint needs to distinguish which type of payload it is receiving.


This location object describes the location of the device that published it.

    "_type" : "location",        
    "acc"   : 75,              
    "alt"   : 13,
    "batt"  : nnn,              
    "cog"   : 270,
    "desc"  : "sssss",
    "event" : "sssss",
    "lat"   : x.xxxxxx,       
    "lon"   : y.yyyyyy,        
    "rad"   : nnn, 
    "t"     : "x",
    "tid"   : "YY",
    "tst"   : 1376715317,      
    "vac"   : 10,
    "vel"   : 54,
    "p"     : nnn,
    "conn" : "w"
  • acc is accuracy of the reported location in meters without unit (integer). iOS adds this element only if it >= 0.
  • alt is the altitude measured in meters above sea level (Optional, integer). iOS adds this element only if it >= 0.
  • batt is the device's battery level in percent (integer)
  • cog is the heading (course over ground) in degrees, 0 = North (Optional, integer). iOS adds this element only if it is >= 0.
  • desc is the description of a waypoint
  • event is one of "enter" or "leave" and tells if the app is entering or leaving a geofence
  • lat is latitude as decimal, represented as a floating point number
  • lon is longitude as decimal, represented as a floating point number
  • rad is the radius in meters around around the geo-fence when entering/leaving a geofence (integer)
  • t is the trigger for the publish x =
    • "p" ping, issued randomly by background task. Note, that the tst in a ping is a current timestamp, so that it doesn't look like a duplicate.
    • "c" circular region enter/leave event
    • "b" beacon region enter/leave event
    • "r" response to a "reportLocation" request
    • "u" manual publish requested by the user
    • "t" timer based publish in move move
    • "a" or missing t indicates automatic location update
  • tid is a configurable tracker-ID which is used by the auto-faces feature to display, say, initials of a user. If it isn't explicitly configured, it defaults to the last two characters of the device's publish topic.
  • tst is a UNIX epoch timestamp of the event as it occurs which may be different from the time it is published (integer, seconds).
  • vac is the vertical accuracy of the reported altitude in meters (Optional, integer). iOS adds this element only if it >= 0.
  • vel is the velocity (speed) in km/h (Optional, integer). iOS adds this element only if it >= 0.
  • p is barometric pressure in kPa (kilo Pascal) (iOS > 8.1.1 only with Extended data enabled)
  • conn inserted when phone is connected to a network when the message is created (only with Extended data enabled). If present, it will have a single character: w for WiFi connection, o for Offline (no carrier when location was obtained), and m for mobile data. These represent the status of the Internet connectivity (aka route to host) of the device the moment the messages was triggered.

(The iOS device can be configured to produce or not produce fields marked as optional with the Extended Data setting.)


  • A publish with of "_type": "location" with a "b" trigger is sent when an iOS device enters or leaves a beacon in addition to a "_type": "transition": if somebody leaves and enters his home without having left the radius of detection for significant changes, a subscriber to his main topic would otherwise not get notified of any location change although beacon or circular region enter and leave transitions were generated.


The OwnTracks-edition of the Choral Greenwich device reports the following additional elements in a _type=location message:

    "_type": "location",
    "alt": 160,
    "cog": 0,
    "dist": 189,
    "trip": 279122,
    "lat": xx.xxxxxx,
    "lon": y.yyyyyy,
    "vel": 12,
    "t": "t",
    "tst": 1406803894
  • alt is altitude in meters. (Optional)
  • batt is the external battery voltage. (Optional)
  • cog is the course over ground (heading) in degrees. (Optional)
  • dist is the distance travelled in meters since the last location publish. (Optional)
  • trip is the distance travelled in meters since the last reboot. (Optional)
  • vel is the speed (velocity) in km/h. (Optional)
  • t is the trigger of the published message:
  • f first publish after reboot
  • m for manually requested locations (e.g. by publishing to /cmd)
  • t (time) for location published because device is moving.
  • T (time) for location published because of time passed (maxInterval); device is stationary
  • k When transitioning from move to stationary an additional publish is sent marked with trigger k (park)
  • v When transitioning from stationary to move additional publish is sent marked with trigger v (mo-v-e)
  • l When device loses GPS fix, an additional publish is sent to transmit the last known position
  • L last position before gracefull shutdown

(The device can be configured to produce or not produce fields marked as optional.)


A last will and testament is published automatically by the MQTT broker when it loses contact with the app. This typically looks like this:

    "tst": 1380738247

The timestamp is the Unix epoch time at which the app first connected (and not the time at which the LWT was published).


Waypoints denote specific geographical locations that you want to keep track of. You define a waypoint on the OwnTracks device, and OwnTracks publishes this waypoint (if the waypoint is marked shared). OwnTracks also monitors these waypoints and will publish a transition event (_type: transition) when entering or leaving the region. Note, that a waypoint may also define a Beacon.

    "_type"  : "waypoint",
    "desc"   : "Free text entered on device",
    "lat"    : x.xxxxxx,       
    "lon"    : y.yyyyyy,        
    "rad"    : xxx,
    "tst"    : nnnnn,
    "shared" : true,
    "tid"    : "XX",
    "uuid"   : "YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY",
    "major"  : 17,
    "minor"  : 1
  • shared location messages of shared waypoints contain a desc and event attribute. Not shared ones contain an event attribute only
  • tst is the timestamp of waypoint creation even if it was subsequently modified by the user. (See Waypoints.) It is copied into the wtst of the transition event (type: transition) when an event pertaining to this waypoint fires.
  • In iOS version >= 9.1.0 and in Android version >= 0.6.0 the last three elements (uuid, major, and minor) are used to configure Beacon waypoints instead of encoding these values into the desc element.

Waypoints are published non-retained because the second waypoint would overwrite the first: a client would only get the last one which makes no sense. Your application will typically store waypoints to some kind of persistent storage.


A transition into or out of a previously configured waypoint is effected by publishing a transition to the ../event subtopic using MQTT. (In HTTP mode the payload is published to the configured endpoint.) In addition to the coordinates where the event fired (lat, lon, and acc of these), the message contains the timestamp of the waypoint creation (wtst) as well as the event (which can be either enter or leave) and, in the case of a shared waypoint, it's description in desc. Transition messages are published with retain=0.

  "_type": "transition",
  "wtst": 1425042603,           // time of waypoint creation
  "lat": 12.34,                 // transition coordinates i.e. "here"
  "lon": 44.5,
  "tst": 1427634603,            // timestamp of transition (e.g. "now")
  "acc": 130,                   // accuracy of lat, lon
  "tid": "JP",
  "event": "enter",
  "desc": "my Indian restaurant",
  "t": "b"          // trigger ("c" -default- for circular regions, "b" for beacons, "w" for WiFi (Android only))

A transition event published as a result of a Beacon movement will have a "t" : "b" associated with it.


The device configuration can be imported and exported as JSON. The exported configuration can contain an array of waypoints that are defined on the device.

    "_type": "configuration",
    "mode": 0,
    "locked": false,
    "deviceId": "phone",
    "clientId": "jane-phone",
    "tid": "xx",
    "subTopic": "owntracks/#",
    "pubTopicBase": "owntracks/jane/phone",
    "host": "broker.my.net",
    "username": "jane",
    "password": "secr3t",
    "willTopic": "",
    "subQos": 1,
    "pubQos": 2,
    "pubInterval" : 30,
    "port": 8883,
    "keepalive": 60,
    "willQos": 1,
    "pubRetain": true,
    "tls": true,
    "tlsCrtPath" : "/foo/bar",
    "auth": true,
    "cleanSession": false,
    "willRetain": false,
    "locatorDisplacement": 200,
    "locatorInterval": 180,
    "locatorAccuracyBackground" : 2,
    "locatorAccuracyForeground" : 0,
    "messaging": true,
    "monitoring": 1,
    "ranging": false,
    "positions": 50,
    "connectionAdvancedMode" : false,
    "autostartOnBoot" : false,
    "pubIncludeBattery" : false,
    "sub" : false,
    "pub" : false,
    "updateAddressBook" : false,
    "notification" : false,
    "notificationLocation" : false,
    "notificationGeocoder" : false,
    "notificationTickerOnPublish" : false,
    "notificationTickerOnGeofenceTransition" : false,
    "remoteCommandReportLocation" : false,
    "remoteCommandDump" : false,
    "cmd" : false,
    "allowRemoteLocation" : false,
    "extendedData" : false,
    "remoteConfiguration" : false,
    "usepolicy" : false,
    "policymode" : 0,
    "beaconMode" : 0,
    "allowinvalidcerts" : false,
    "validatedomainname" : false,
    "validatecertificatechain" : false,
    "servercer" : "",
    "clientpkcs" : "",
    "passphrase" : "",
    "waypoints" : [
                    { "_type" : "waypoint",
                      "tst": nnnnnnnnnn,
                      "lat": nn.nnn,
                      "lon": nn.nnn,
                      "rad": nnn,
                      "shared": true,
                      "desc" : "blabla"
  • mode 0 == Private mode, 2 == Public mode, 3 == HTTP mode, 4 == Watson-Quickstart mode, 5 == Watson-Registered mode
  • locked iOS only, if set to true, locks settings screen on device for editing. View only. Default = false. Can only be set via .otrc import.
  • subTopic is what the apps subscribe to
  • pubTopicBase is the prefix under which the apps will publish
  • username
  • password
  • deviceId
  • tid is a configurable tracker-ID which is used by the auto-faces feature to display, say, initials of a user. If it isn't explicitly configured, it defaults to the last two characters of the device's publish topic.
  • url url to POST to in HTTP mode
  • quickstartId device id in Watson-Quickstart mode
  • watsonOrganization organization in Watson-Registered mode
  • watsonDeviceType device type in Watson-Registered mode
  • watsonDeviceId device id in Watson-Registered mode
  • watsonAuthToken auth token in Watson-Registered mode
  • willTopic
  • subQos
  • pubQos
  • willQos
  • pubRetain
  • cleanSession
  • willRetain
  • locatorDisplacement in meters
  • locatorInterval in seconds
  • locatorAccuracyBackground 0 == high power, 1 == balanced power, 2 == low power, 3 == no power
  • locatorAccuracyForeground 0 == high power, 1 == balanced power, 2 == low power, 3 == no power
  • monitoring iOS only, set in UI. The four modes are: Quiet (-1), Manual (0), Significant (1), and Move (2)
  • ranging iOS only, set to true or false
  • positions iOS only, number of positions to keep and display
  • autostartOnBoot Android only
  • sub subscription enabled for contacts, etc.
  • pub Android only, auto publish, in iOS controlled by monitoring
  • updateAddressBook
  • notification Android only, show notifications
  • notificationLocation Android only, show last reported location in notification, off in iOS
  • notificationGeocoder Android only, resolve location in notification to address, in iOS only resolved when in show details
  • cmd respond to remote commands
  • allowRemoteLocation iOS only, respond to remote location request even if monitoring mode is set to manual
  • extendedData iOS, add altitude, vertical accuracy, velocity and course over ground to published data. Android, include battery in location publishes
  • remoteConfiguration Android only, respond to remote configuration messages
  • usepolicy iOS only, use user defined security policy
  • allowinvalidcerts iOS only, allow self signed certificates in user defined security policy
  • validatedomainname iOS only, validate domain main during TLS handshake
  • validatecertificatechain iOS only, validate the whole certificate chain or just the server certificate
  • policymode iOS only,
    • 0 = Do not used pinned certificates to validate servers.
    • 1 = Validate host certificates against public keys of pinned certificates.
    • 2 = Validate host certificates against pinned certificates.
  • servercer iOS only, blank separated list of certificate file names in DER format, or empty
  • clientpkcs iOS only, name of the client pkcs12 file,or empty
  • passphrase iOS only, passphrase for client pkcs12 file
  • beaconMode Android only. 0 = normal Bluetooth mode that enables scanning when regions with UUID are defined, 1 = Same as 0 but uses legacy beacon scanning instead of Android 6 scanning. Has no effect on devices not running Android < 6.x, 2 = hard disable any Bluetooth functions even if regions with UUID are defined
  • ws Android only, connect using WebSocket protocol
  • ignoreStaleLocations Number of days after which location updates are assumed stale. zero means no stale checking. Defaults to zero.
  • ignoreInaccurateLocations Maximum meters of location inaccuracy. Worse accuracy suppresses publish of location. Zero means no inaccuracy checking. Defaults to zero.


  • Imagine you are operating an OwnTracks backend for e.g. your family, and you want to avoid your family members accidentally switching modes or modifying settings locally on the device. You can export their configuration, add a locked: true to it and re-import it onto the iOS device. The settings will then be visible, but cannot be changed.


These messages are published when beacon ranging (iOS only) is enabled. Be advised that beacon ranging publishes a lot of messages and has a strong impact on battery life.

        "tst": 1399028969,
  • acc The accuracy of the proximity value, measured in meters from the beacon.
  • rssi The received signal strength of the beacon, measured in decibels. The theoretical relationship between RSSI and distance is something like this: RSSI[dbm] = −(10n log10(d) − A) where d is the distance and A is the offset which is the measured RSSI 1 meter point away from the Bluetooth Low Energy device.
  • prox The relative distance to the beacon where n indicates
    • 0 = the proximity of the beacon could not be determined.
    • 1 = the beacon is in the user’s immediate vicinity.
    • 2 = the beacon is relatively close to the user.
    • 3 = the beacon is far away."


{"_type":"cmd","action":"action","content":"Backend maintenance scheduled for tonight\n\nhttp://support.owntracks.org"}
{"_type":"cmd","action":"action","content":"<a href='http://support.owntracks.org'>Backend Maintenance tonight</a>"}
  • action action to be performed by the device
    • reportSteps reports steps walked on iPhone 5s devices.
      You may add "from":timestamp and/or "to":timestamp" which defaults to current time, from defaults to current date 00:00 am (see Pedometer).
    • reportLocation triggers the publish of the current location
    • dump triggers the publish of a configuration message
    • setWaypoints configures new waypoints. (details ). The variant with "payload" only exists for backward compatibility
    • setConfiguration configures the app. details. The variant with "payload" only exists for backward compatibility
    • waypoints triggers a publish of all waypoints configured on the device. These are published in .otrw format to the ../waypoints topic.
    • action inserts an additional 'Featured Content' tab in the UI.
    • If "url" is specified, the URL is opened in a full screen web view within the app.
    • If "url" is not specified the text in "content" is displayed. Links embedded in the text are operational. If "content" is HTML, it is rendered.
    • Send "action":"action" without "content" and without "url" to remove the extra tab.
    • If "notify" is in the payload, it is a string which will be used as notification in the UI
    • If the optional "extern" boolean is true a click on the notification will launch an external Web browser; false (the default) opens the url in a Webview within the OwnTracks app.


  • tst timestamp of the request
  • steps the number of steps walked with the device in the specfied time period or -1 if device does not support step counting or specified time period is invalid
  • from effective start of time period
  • to effective end of time period


As described in Card, apps read retained messages of _type=card on owntracks/+/+/info to find the name and avatar (face) of a user.

  "_type": "card",
  "name": "Jane Jolie"
  "face": "iV1CFEVkMhmCIKBUKh3 ... ghAAAAABJRU5ErkJggg==",

The name element contains a name which is displayed by the apps to identify a user, and face contains the base64-encoded PNG image (40x40 px) which is displayed instead of a TID.


The app can export a list of configured waypoints (separate from the configuration) in order to share these, for example. Similarly, the app can import a list of waypoints, merging them into the current list, from a JSON file with .otrw extension. The list of waypoints looks like this.

    "_type": "waypoints",
    "_creator": "OTwpDraw",
    "waypoints": [
            "_type": "waypoint",
            "tst": 1433598071,
            "lat": 47.580231298,
            "lon": 9.525146484,
            "rad": 25186,
            "desc": "I went swimming here"
            "_type": "waypoint",
            "tst": 1430398091,
            "lat": 46.517295754,
            "lon": 9.871215820,
            "rad": 500,
            "desc": "Cheese fondue"

Note that _type=waypoints is plural.


This payload type contains a single data element with the original JSON object _type (e.g. location, beacon, etc.) encrypted payload in it.

  "_type": "encrypted",
  "data": "1Vu7Owp ... W4lMnh28FB+el22GsCrlnggvEcp4H8GR9iKJdi1qfwkejYpzrQ+491Mwunjg="