We've shown you some clients which consume OwnTracks data, but you may well wish to dip your fingers into programming something of your own. Creating a program to consume OwnTracks data isn't particularly difficult, and we're going to show you what you can do with a bit of Python together with the Paho Python client.

Getting started: Paho Python#

We're assuming you have Python installed, which you can verify by attempting to invoke python3 -V; if installed, it tells you the version number. We're also assuming you have pip installed (a Python package manager) which may be called pip or something on your machine.

Install the Paho Python module using

$ python3 -mvenv venv
$ source venv/bin/activate
(venv) $ pip install paho-mqtt

Progress reports#

Assume we want to create a program which should report the location of our friends, as a simple list:

TID = n4 is currently at 51.0343863, 9.4763712
TID = jane is currently at 48.856826, 2.292713

We need a small utility program which will subscribe to location publishes received by your broker by connecting to it on localhost and subscribing to owntracks/+/+ (a wild-card expression in which each + means anything at this level).

The Code#

For each received message, the utility attempts to decode the JSON payload and then prints the tracker-ID (TID) as well as latitude, longitude coordinates. Keep a copy of our OwnTracks-JSON documentation handy and study the topic names of each possible publish by the apps.

#!/usr/bin/env python

import paho.mqtt.client as mqtt
import json

# The callback for when the client successfully connects to the broker
def on_connect(client, userdata, flags, rc):
    ''' We subscribe on_connect() so that if we lose the connection
        and reconnect, subscriptions will be renewed. '''


# The callback for when a PUBLISH message is received from the broker
def on_message(client, userdata, msg):

    topic = msg.topic

    payload = msg.payload.decode("utf-8")

        data = json.loads(payload)

        print("TID = {0} is currently at {1}, {2}".format(data['tid'], data['lat'], data['lon']))
        print("Cannot decode data on topic {0}".format(topic))

client = mqtt.Client()
client.on_connect = on_connect
client.on_message = on_message

client.connect("localhost", 1883, 60)

# Blocking call which processes all network traffic and dispatches
# callbacks (see on_*() above). It also handles reconnecting.



Testing location-based apps is a bit of a, well, pain, but remember there are a few simple tricks you can apply:

  • Use the publish now button in OwnTracks to fire a location update. The smart phone won't really move much of course, but it'll allow you to test your program a bit.
  • Publish your own OwnTracks-JSON payload to the broker with mosquitto_pub or similar, even using a small script:
    jo _type=location \
        lat=48.856826 \
        lon=2.292713 \
        tid=j1 \
        tst=$(date +%s) |
        mosquitto_pub -r -t owntracks/jane/nokia -l

Adding Lua hooks to Recorder#

If you wish to dig deeper into what our Recorder backend can do, we've documented getting started with Lua hooks for you.