Intel Claims Big IoT Boost With New Tiger Lake, Elkhart Lake CPUs

The semiconductor giant is promising a new level of performance and capabilities for IoT applications with the new 11th-generation Intel Core processors and the Intel Atom x6000E series, both of which feature things like Intel Time Coordinated Computing to enable real-time, deterministic computing.


Intel is promising a new level of performance and capabilities for IoT applications with a slew of new processors tailored specifically for the segment, including an IoT variant of the chipmaker’s Tiger Lake chips that were recently launched for ultra-thin laptops.

The new IoT processors, announced Wednesday at the virtual Intel Industrial Summit, consist of 11th-generation Intel Core processors also known as Tiger Lake, the Intel Atom x6000E Series and the Intel Pentium and Celeron N and J Series, which were previously code-named Elkhart Lake.

[Related: Intel IoT Programs 'Key' For Post-COVID-19 Digital Transformation]

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John Healy, a vice president in Intel’s IoT Group and general manager of platform management and customer engineering, called the new processors the company’s “most significant step forward yet in enhancements for IoT,” addressing current needs and building a foundation for AI and 5G applications.

“About three years ago, we deliberately pivoted our focus toward compute-intensive or compute-hungry workloads at the edge, and a lot of that was about understanding how the applications were evolving in specific vertical markets, like in industrial manufacturing, in retail, in healthcare and transportation and infrastructure and understanding how and where we could best enable those implementations to evolve,” Healy said.

The 11th-generation Intel Core lineup for IoT combines the capabilities of the Tiger Lake processors that were launched for ultra-thin laptops earlier this month with additional features, like hardware-assisted virtualization, in-band error correction and Intel Time Coordinated Computing technology to enable real-time, deterministic computing that is often required for IoT.

The new processors are “focused at a performance band where high performance and high graphic performance are required increasingly for these applications that are consolidating mixed criticality or heterogeneous applications at the edge, where we may have multiple real-time or time-deterministic applications requiring to coexist in parallel on a single platform, where multiple devices are converging and applications are converging on a single platform,” according to Healy.

Like the Tiger Lake processors for laptops, the IoT variants are based on the company’s new 10nm SuperFin technology and include the company’s new Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, Intel Total Memory Encryption and Intel Deep Learning Boost with support for new Vector Neural Network instructions.

Compared to an eight-generation Intel Core i7-8666 UE, the new Intel Core i7-1185G7E can provide up to 23 percent faster single-threaded performance, up to 19 percent faster multi-threaded performance and nearly three times faster graphical performance.

The six Tiger Lake IoT processors consist of Core i3, i5 and i7 chips that are split into two application groups: general embedded and industrial. Whereas the general embedded processors have a temperature range from zero to more than 100 degrees Celsius, industrial processors can operate from -40 degrees to more than 100 degrees Celsius. Plus, the industrial processors come with in-band error correction, Intel Time Coordinated Computing and technical documentation to ensure that supported platforms can comply with functional safety standards.

“We’ve enhanced it for real-time support, where we have specific enhancements within the products for time-coordinated compute and [time-sensitive networking] support for those applications that need highly deterministic performance and support at a platform at system level,” Healy said.

The specifications for the general embedded and industrial processors are otherwise the same. The flagship Core i7-1185G7E comes with four cores and eight threads and has a base frequency can be tuned from 1.2 GHz at 12 watts of thermal design power to 2.8 GHz at 28 watts. The processors’ max turbo frequency is 4.4 GHz, and it also comes with 96 execution units for graphics and a 12 MB cache. All of the processors, except for the i3, support up to four 4K displays or two 8K displays and comes with two video decode boxes for processing up to 40 1080p, 30 frames-per-second video streams. The i3 can only support one 8K display and comes with one video decode box.

The Intel Atom x6000E Series and the Intel Pentium and Celeron N and J Series, collectively known under the code name Elkhart Lake, represent the company’s first processor platform “enhanced for IoT” and are designed to operate in more power-constrained devices.

“This product is really focused on applications where we see a need for real-time, functionally safe control in environments like robotics or in an environment where multiple sensors are being converged and need to be managed within a single environment. where there is an energy or a power constraint around the platform,” said Healy, who also cited medical carts, front-line kiosks and mobile point-of-sale systems as potential applications that can benefit.

Elkhart Lake’s IoT-specific features include a dedicated Arm-based offload engine for IoT workloads and Intel Time Coordinated Computing, both of which improve real-time computing applications. Other features include out-of-band device management for remote management and Intel Safety Island to ensure applications can be certified as functionally safe. However, the 12 processors come with varying levels of support for these features, with only two Atom processors supporting in-band error correcting, Intel Time Coordinated Computing and Intel Safety Island.

Elkhart Lake consists of eight Atom processors, two Celeron processors and two Pentium processors, with thermal design power ranging from 4.5 watts to 12 watts, cores ranging from two to four and frequencies ranging from 1 GHz to 1.9 GHz in high-frequency mode. All but five of the Atom processors support a boost turbo frequency of 3 GHz. With Intel UHD integrated graphics, 11 of the processors range in graphics frequencies from 250 MHz to 500 MHz. Seven of the processors can enter burst mode for graphics, with frequencies ranging from 750 MHz to 850 MHz.

While the lower thermal design power of the Elkhart processors means slower performance than Intel’s Tiger Lake IoT processors, the company is claiming major performance leaps over the previous generation of low-power chips designed for IoT.

Compared to the prior-generation Intel Pentium J4205, the new Intel Pentium J6245 boosts single-threaded performance by to 1.7 times, multi-threaded performance by up to 1.5 times and graphical performance by up to two times, according to internal benchmark comparisons made by Intel.

The processors can also support up to three 4K, 60-frames-per-second displays via DisplayPort 1.3 and HDMI 2.0b and come with Intel Platform Trust Technology as well as Intel AES New Instructions, Intel SHA Extensions and Intel Secure Key for hardware-accelerated cryptography.