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What is Orion?

Orion is a (mostly) drop-in replacement for OwnTracks Recorder for clients reporting locations via HTTP. Orion recognizes and respects the client JSON payload format shipped by the OwnTracks Android client.

But why? The official OwnTracks Recorder is, in my opinion, needlessly complicated and difficult to set up. For simple and straightforward deployments where clients report location with periodic HTTP requests, all the server needs to do is parse that client payload and persist it somewhere in a database. That's what this project is for.

orion-server pairs nicely with orion-web, a frontend visualization tool for the web similar to that supplied by the official OwnTracks recorder. Deploying the web interface alongside the server is of course optional if you don't need it.


The scope of responsibility of Orion is deliberately very limited. Orion exposes a handler to save HTTP location reports from the Android OwnTracks client to a database. It also provides an opt-in feature to reverse geocode GPS coordinates into formatted addresses, which are persisted to the database.

Note that an authentication mechanism is deliberately excluded from Orion itself. Since the OwnTracks client authenticates requests with a simple Basic Authorization HTTP header, Orion delegates the responsibility of user authentication to your web server. This means that by the time a request reaches the Orion service itself, Orion assumes the request has already been authenticated, and will persist the data to a database exactly as-is.

Orion does not support or respect other types of requests, and has no support for MQTT.


You have the option of supplying all necessary configuration variables in a JSON file, passed as environment variables to the server process, or some combination thereof. Note that the value of an environment variable will override the value specified in the JSON config file in the event of a conflict.

By default, Orion will look for a config file at /etc/orion/config.json. You can override this by passing environment variable ORION_CONFIG=/path/to/config.json.

Orion respects the following configuration parameters (note that some are required to be defined before starting the server):

JSON config file key Equivalent environment variable Required? Description Example DATABASE_HOST Yes Hostname of the MySQL database used for storage. localhost
database.port DATABASE_PORT Yes Port of the MySQL database used for storage. 3306 DATABASE_NAME Yes Name of the MySQL database used for storage. orion
database.user DATABASE_USER Yes Username of the MySQL user. orion
database.password DATABASE_PASSWORD Yes Password of the MySQL user. super-secret-password
redis.addr REDIS_ADDR No Address of a Redis server to enable Redis-based reverse geocode caching. An in-memory cache is used if no address is supplied or if the specified Redis server is unavailable. localhost:6379
kafka.addr KAFKA_ADDR No Address of a Kafka broker to which location publish events will be mirrored in real-time. If omitted, Orion will skip publishing to Kafka. localhost:9092
kafka.topic KAFKA_TOPIC No Name of the Kafka topic, relevant only when Kafka publishing is enabled. orion
frontend_url FRONTEND_URL No The fully-qualified base URL of the orion-web frontend interface. Used for settings CORS headers. You should omit this configuration parameter if (1) you're not using orion-web, or (2) orion-web is deployed to the same base URL as orion-server.
mapbox_access_token MAPBOX_ACCESS_TOKEN No Mapbox access token, used for reverse geocoding. If supplied, Orion will attempt to reverse geocode all incoming GPS coordinates; if omitted, Orion will skip reverse geocoding. pk.xxxxxxxxxxxxx

An example valid config.json might look something like this:

  "database": {
    "host": "localhost",
    "port": 3306,
    "name": "orion",
    "user": "orion",
    "password": "super-secret-password"
  "frontend_url": "",
  "mapbox_access_token": "pk.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx"


You'll need a WSGI-friendly web server, Python, pip, the virtualenv package, and a SQLAlchemy-friendly database. The instructions below assume locally-hosted MySQL and Apache.

Create a database for location events:

CREATE USER 'orion'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'super-secret-password';
GRANT ALL ON orion.* TO 'orion'@'localhost';

Get the source code and bootstrap the application.

Note that the virtual environment is located in a folder env inside the repository root.

$ git clone
$ cd orion-server
# Install system dependencies
$ sudo apt-get install libmysqlclient-dev python-dev
# Install Python dependencies
$ virtualenv env
$ source env/bin/activate
$ make bootstrap
# Create the initial database tables
$ make init-db

Add an Apache virtual host:

<VirtualHost *:80>

    WSGIScriptAlias / /path/to/orion-server/orion.wsgi

    <Directory /path/to/orion-server>
        Require all granted

    # Handle user authentication at the web server level
    # This is important; otherwise Orion will allow any user to publish location events
    <Location /api/publish>
        AuthType basic
        AuthName "Orion"
        AuthBasicProvider file
        AuthUserFile /etc/apache2/.htpasswd
        Require user ...

If you are interested in enabling reverse geocoding of all GPS coordinates sent by mobile clients, create a Mapbox access token, and ensure it is properly set in the configuration options. This will automatically enable reverse geocoding.

Client configuration

Assuming the above virtual host configuration, the Android OwnTracks client application can be configured as follows:

  1. Set the mode to Private HTTP
  2. Set the host to
  3. Enable authentication with the username/password respected in /etc/apache2/.htpasswd
  4. Set the device ID (required) and tracker ID (optional)


iOS support

iOS ships a JSON payload that is more or less of the same shape as that of the Android client, so it should be compatible without any additional action.

Support for other OwnTracks features

The only feature I use is periodic background location reporting, so adding support to Orion to respect payloads sent by other features is not a high priority, but may be investigated in the future.

Support for MQTT

To keep the server simple and friendly for small-scale deployments, only HTTP reporting is supported.

However, Orion has limited support for publishing location events to a Kafka broker for real-time stream processing applications. When a Kafka broker address is specified in configuration, Orion will automatically emit JSON-serialized location messages to Kafka when the server receives a location publish.


It is highly recommended to follow the above instructions for installing Orion manually. However, you can try orion-docker for a "one-click" Docker deployment solution, though stability is not guaranteed.


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