Intel’s latest industrial processors focus on IoT and AI-powered edge computing

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Intel's new industrial silicon is geared towards edge computing.

The term Internet of Things (IoT) might make you think of connected gadgets like the Amazon Echo or a Ring video doorbell. However, it reaches far beyond the consumer world. Industrial IoT applications are growing in popularity as new technology is developed to support computing at the edge.

Intel’s new 11th Gen Core and Atom x6000E Series processors fit that category. The chipmaker announced the products at its Intel Industrial Summit. Its new silicon will bring enhanced artificial intelligence (AI), security, and safety features to industry clients around the world. Moreover, they will help Intel capture a significant portion of a market that is predicted to be worth $65 billion by 2024.

Meet the 11th Gen Intel Core Processors

If hearing about Intel’s 11th Gen processors feels like déjà vu, that’s probably because the company also recently announced its consumer-facing 11th Gen offerings. Often referred to as Tiger Lake, those processors feature a max clock speed of 4.8 GHz, Thunderbolt 4 support, and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity. They also have built-in Iris Xe graphics, which Intel claims is faster at rendering tasks than an AMD 4800U graphics card.

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The 11th Gen Core processors Intel announced at its Industrial Summit event are a bit different. They offer features that better support IoT applications that demand high-speed, low-latency computing. The chips deliver a 23 percent improvement in single-thread performance compared to the previous generation. Meanwhile, the 11th Gen silicon delivers a 19 percent gain in multi-thread performance and a 2.95 times boost in graphics performance.

The chips feature new dual-video decode boxes that allow them to bring in 40 streams simultaneously at 1080p and 30 frames per second (FPS). They can also output up to four channels of 4K video or two channels of 8K video.

Intel’s latest 11th Gen processors are ideal for applications like PLC, robotics, and human-machine interfaces. They also have enough power to run next-gen medical imaging devices and perform AI-powered diagnostics. The latter is a trend being seen increasingly in the healthcare world.

Currently, Intel is working with 90 partners to deliver 11th Gen Core solutions that meet its customers’ needs.

Atom x6000E Series is Designed for IoT

While Intel’s new 11th Gen Core processors are designed for computing at the edge, its Atom x6000E Series are the first specifically enhanced for IoT applications. Intel says that the chips deliver “enhanced real-time performance and efficiency.”

The silicon features a dedicated real-time offload engine, out-of-band and in-band remote device management, enhanced in and out storage options, and supports 4Kp60 resolution on three displays. Meanwhile, the Atom chips can be integrated with 2.5GbE time-sensitive networking and meet strict safety requirements thanks to a feature called Intel Safety Island and built-in hardware-based security.

Intel says that the Atom processors can be used across a variety of sectors. In the industrial segment, they can be used for applications like real-time control systems on product lines. They can also be integrated into on-board vehicle controls, fleet management systems, have the specs necessary to synchronize inputs from semiautonomous vehicles.

The Atom x6000E Series chips also have implications for the medical field. They can power some ultrasound machines, kiosks that require AI and computer vision (like those used for COVID-19 screenings), and medical displays. Finally, the processors would be appropriate for things like point-of-sale systems in retail businesses and restaurants.

Intel notes that it has over 100 partners committed to delivering Atom x6000E Series solutions.

Why is Edge Computing Important?

As tech continues to diversify, edge computing will become even more important. Intel believes that the edge silicon market will be worth $65 billion by 2024. The chipmaker’s revenue in that space grew by more than 20 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, a 2020 IDC report suggests that 70 percent of all enterprises will use edge computing to process data within three years.

Intel claims to be working with more than 1,200 partners, including big names in almost every industry. It mentions Accenture, Bosch, ExxonMobil, Lumen Technologies (previously CenturyLink), Philips, Sensormatic, Verizon, and ViewSonic.

The company specifically detailed the way that Audi is using edge analytics and machine learning to automate the quality-control processes in its factories. The carmaker has been able to cut labor costs by 30 to 50 percent and has increased weld inspections by 100 times. Now, it is using the low-latency edge computing platform to automate and optimize other factory processes.

An Intel press document states that more than 50 percent of data created at the edge will also be processed, stored, and analyzed there to enable lower-latency, higher reliability, and better security.

John Healy, vice president of Intel’s IoT Group, says, “The business impact of AI at the edge and vision workloads is an amazing growth area.”

The company aims to create an entire tech ecosystem to support these applications. In a way, it’s already doing so. For instance, Intel’s OpenVINO toolkit helps power a variety of computer vision systems. Along with that, Intel is working to create a consistent experience for edge developers who work with its products.

With the addition of its latest chips, Intel is strengthening its IoT portfolio. Healy says, “Think of it as a full asset stack with reference designs, tooling, acceleration, applications, and connectivity.”

Although a number of challenges face the IoT edge computing space, Intel’s solutions will be there to help businesses pioneer new innovations. The world is already changing in the wake of COVID-19. Edge computing will be at the forefront of the globe’s economic recovery and will become a steady presence in everyday life throughout the coming years.

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