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Nook Rally Clocks, A History

NASA Rally Sport has been behind a rapid evolution of scoring technology with Android-based devices. It's all happened so fast that the progress is becoming a bit of a blur. Here's a record of the early development.

The Nook clock is a "rooted" Barnes and Noble e-Reader featuring eInk display technology. The basic features needed to be usable as a rally clock were:
- A display readable in full sunlight
- All day battery life
- Programmable in an accessible manner (Android) to develop future capability
- Affordable when a rally can need 25 or more clocks.

June, 2013 - Rally West Virginia
This was the first public use of the Nook. Four devices were brought to the rally and handed out as demos. All stage teams used TimeWise 650 clocks for all official timing. The intent was merely to get some feedback. At this point, the Nook was barely more than just a display clock. It could record car numbers, but at the time this feature was so cumbersome it was unusable. However, they survived the rally, and the feedback reported was full of potential, so the decision was made to plow ahead and continue development.

September, 2013 - Black River Stages
Several months of additional software development was accomplished. We issued Nook clocks and TimeWise 650 clocks to all the stages, telling them to use the Nooks but to switch back to the TimeWise in case of any trouble. This was an extremely difficult debut because the weather rained like mad. We quickly learned that without a special technique (a perfectly inflated zip lock bag) they were tough to use in the rain. With this, approximately 10% of the spots revered to their TimeWise 650 clocks.

March, 2014 - Sandblast Rally
Over the winter, software development continued with Nooks. At the rally, Nook clocks were issued to all teams. The TimeWise 650 clocks were brought to the rally, but they weren't even taken out of the storage box. During the rally, approximately 90% of the controls used their Nooks to transmit their scoring data over a 3G/4G connection to central scoring. Following the rally, the existing inventory of TimeWise 650 clocks were sold.

April, 2014 - Empire State Performance Rally
A "Nook training class" began to evolve to teach volunteers about all the features of the clock.

June, 2014 - Magnum Opus Rally
Nooks deployed again to all teams, with refinements to the uploading process.

September, 2014 - Black River Stages Rally
Nooks issued to all crews. The digital uploads resulted in scores being completed before the final transit was finished. After this rally, refinements in user interface, especially for arrival controls, were implemented.

March, 2015 - Sandblast Rally
After another year of refinement, the next stage in deploying the Nook clocks was to be to run some controls (specifically, the arrival controls) with no paper logs relying only on the Nooks. This experimental, incremental march toward a fully digital log was successful. Of all scoring data, 71% was uploaded directly from the Nooks.

September, 2015 - Black River Stages Rally
Another milestone in the move toward digital scoring, at this rally 98.9% of all scoring data was direct digital upload from the Nooks. Of the 1851 times put into the scoring software, only 20 of them were entered or modified by hand. Those majority of those 20 fixes were typos in the car numbers.

March, 2016 - Sandblast Rally
The most recent refinements included the ability to detect rain and dust on the screen through 100% software based methods, and in doing so adapt even further to use in harsh rally environments. 98.7% of all stage times were uploaded digitally.

After more than 18 months of rapid development, NASA Rally Sport has a stockpile of over sixty of the Nook clocks. The software, available to any Android device at no charge, has been used around the world for stage rallies, rally raids, and hillclimbs.

The Nook we use is the 6" black and white model which was discontinued in 2014. Over five million were built, so there will be spares available for a long time. The model shown below, with a gray outline on its edge, is a glow model. The non-glow models (which are black in that location) are also usable and compromise the bulk of the converted units as they are more commonly available.