What is Elkhart Lake?
As the world transitions to Industry 4.0, edge computing applications have seen a surge in demand for higher performance and lower power consumption processing for real-time inferencing, connectivity, and data telemetry with reinforced ruggedization. The explosive growth in IoT and edge computing has created performance bottlenecks and limitations that previous generation processors could not upkeep. Intel’s latest Atom x6000 E Series, Pentium, and Celeron N & J Series processor generation, formally known as Elkhart Lake, launched to address these demands and alleviate the bottlenecks that the embedded and industrial IoT markets are currently facing.
Elkhart Lake Use Cases
With Elkhart Lake focusing on industrial IoT, the latest Intel Atom x6000e, Pentium, and Celeron N & J Series offers solutions to key industrial sectors that require high-performance, low-power consumption, real-time processing in harsh environmental conditions. The key applications that Elkhart Lake will be deployed in will consist of extensive uptime with uninterrupted operations, implementation within space-constrained locations, and exposure to frequent shock, vibration, and varying temperatures. Some targeted market segments where Elkhart Lake can highlight its IoT-centric features include:
- Industrial & Factory Automation
- Smart Retail
- Smart Kiosk Machines
- Intelligent IoT Infrastructure
- Medical Imaging & Diagnostics
- Vehicle Fleet Telematics & Management
Why Elkhart Lake? (Elkhart Lake vs Apollo Lake vs Bay Trail)
Although Apollo Lake (launched in 2016) and Bay Trail (launched in 2013) processors are still under its 15-year product support lifecycle, Elkhart Lake delivers a more modern and ‘refreshened’ take on its low-powered, high-performance processor predecessors for edge applications. This latest generation of Intel processors are primarily focused towards enhancing edge compute and providing solutions for IoT-oriented applications.
1. Significant Performance Enhancements
Elkhart Lake processors (Intel Atom x6000 E Series, Intel Pentium, and Intel Celeron N & J Series) deliver a significant boost in performance in comparison with its precursors. Because Elkhart Lake is based on a 10nm lithography (Tremont microarchitecture) for its compute die and 14nm for its Platform Control Hub (PCH), there is a 1.7x improvement in single-thread and 1.5x improvement in multi-thread performance over the previous generation, Apollo Lake.
The latest processors utilize quad cores with up to 3.0 GHz burst frequency while maintaining minimal TDP ranges of 4.5W-12W. Edge applications that require high performance data processing with minimal power consumption will find this improvement critical to its deployment.
This processor series also sees a leap in performance capabilities in its RAM support. Previous generations were only capable of 8GB DDR3L (up to 1866MT/s) or LPDDR4 (up to 2400MT/s), while Elkhart Lake pushes the boundaries by supporting up to 32GB LPDDR4 (up to 3200MT/s) with Intel In-Band Error Correction Code (IBECC) support in specified processor models. IBECC is Intel’s error correction solution with standard, non-ECC RAM and can be utilized in mission-critical deployments where reliability is a key factor for extensive uptimes. IBECC is configurable in the UEFI for more versatility and flexibility for OEM designers and system integrators.
2. Doubling Speeds with Next-Generation Graphics
In addition to the performance enhancements, Elkhart Lake processors are coupled with Intel’s Gen 11 UHD Graphics to double graphics speeds. The 2x improvement in graphics has given this processor series the capabilities to support three simultaneous displays at 4K @ 60fps and support with key graphics APIs (DirectX, OpenGL, & OpenCL); ideal for digital signage, smart kiosk machines, IIoT & Robotics or Industrial/Factory Automation, and more. With GPU performance up to 32 EU (execution unit) cores, specified Elkhart Lake processors are capable of deep learning AI inference and computer vision applications like medical imaging.
3. Expansive Connectivity for Real-time
IoT is ever-growing and requires immense amounts of connectivity. This generation of low-power high-performance processors offers support for:
- 3x 2.5GbE LAN
- PCIe 3.0 (up to 8 lanes)
- USB 3.1 (up to 4 ports)
- USB 2.0 (up to 10 ports)
System integrators and OEM designers can now provide further additions to time-sensitive network-enabled MACs for real-time data analytics with 2.5GbE LAN; compared to previous generations that are limited to 1GbE LAN. As IoT data becomes more complex, there will be a demand for faster data transfer speeds. The upgrade in USB generations enhances data transfer speeds with USB 3.1 offering 10Gbps transfer rates, while USB 2.0 offers 480Mbps. IoT sensors and devices that utilize a USB connectivity benefit from this enhancement as some IoT are bottlenecked by USB 2.0 data transfer rates. Industrial IoT applications are limited by the lack of edge AI support in space-constrained locations.
The introduction PCIe 3.0 paves way for edge AI workload consolidation through distinct types of hardware accelerators. Industrial computers now have the capabilities to support AI inferencing for machine vision and smart kiosk machine applications in much smaller form factors. When compared to Bay Trail, Elkhart Lake processors have double the amount of PCI Express Lanes and utilize PCIe 3.0 with bandwidth speeds of 1GB/s per lane versus PCIe 2.0 at 500MB/s per lane. These improvements in connectivity have given OEMs the capabilities to enable real-time data processing in a low-powered x86 architecture for mission-critical applications at the edge.
4. Introducing Hardware-based Security (Intel PTT)
As rootkits and other malicious software become more prevalent, data security has become a necessity for all industrial IoT devices due to the sensitive nature of edge computing. Intel incorporates their own firmware-based TPM 2.0, Intel PTT (Platform Trust Technology), to encrypt and store credential keys while preventing system boot if device tampering is detected. Other crucial security protocols such as Intel Boot Guard, Secure Key, AES New Instructions, and SHA Extensions are executed seamlessly using cryptography accelerators without hindering overall system performance and productivity.
Integrated IoT-Specific Features
Intel PSE (Programmable Service Engine)
Intel has introduced Intel PSE (Programmable Service Engine) into Elkhart Lake, a dedicated ARM offload engine. Intel PSE is powered by an Arm Cortex-M7 Microcontroller that facilitates IoT-centric features for ARM-based applications in real-time such as: Remote out-of-band device management, Network proxy, Embedded controller lite, and Sensor hub.
TCC (Time Coordinating Computing) & TSN (Time Sensitive Networking)
Incorporating Intel TCC and TSN into the Intel Atom x6000RE and Atom x6000FE, enhances worst-case execution-time (WCET) operations and ultrareliable low-latency communication (URLLC). Latency-sensitive applications that are susceptible to timing jitters and causes asynchronization. These features help synchronize data throughout the IoT device network for a more optimized real-time deployment. In TSN, IEEE 802.1 standard provides a ubiquitous out-of-the-box solution without the need for license or royalty fees.
SI (Safety Island)
Only available for Intel Atom x6000FE Series, Intel SI enables functional safety (FuSa) capabilities that detect and attenuate a system malfunction before it causes or heightens further hazards. FuSa follows international standards such as IEC 61508, ISO 13849 for a universal technology that organizations can entrust and avoid timely recertification processes. An example where FuSa is utilized is if an automated device malfunctions, FuSa is activated and shuts the system down before more potential damage is done.
Remote OOB & INB Management
Remote out-of-band (OOB) and in-band (INB) device management for extended remote usability if the operating system (OS) becomes unresponsive. OOB management allows the end user to cycle power states without having to be physically present on the premise, while INB management can access firmware and software updates. Although some of these IoT-centric features within Elkhart Lake are only available for specified models, it demonstrates that Intel has recognized the demand for high-performance computing in a low-power design for IIoT and edge computing applications.
Specialty Intel Atom x6000E Series Processors
The x6000E Series is structured into three tiers used for different applications. Intel Celeron and Pentium N and J Series are catered towards industrial edge computer integrations. Meanwhile, Intel Atom x6000E Series focuses on providing specialized features such as TCC (Time Coordinating Computing) and/or SI (Safety Island). Embedded systems benefit from Atom x6000FE processors due to TCC capabilities to improve synchronization between IoT devices in latency-sensitive deployments. Industrial systems utilize Atom x6000RE for both Intel TCC and Intel SI because it features additional malfunction safety protocols and optimized IoT device management.
Intel Atom x6000 Series Processor Specifications:
RCO-1000 Series Powered by Intel Elkhart Lake
The latest RCO-1000-EHL is an ultra-compact industrial computer powered by Intel Elkhart Lake Celeron J6413 and is well suited for space-limited IIoT deployments that require high-performance edge AI capabilities. This miniature industrial computer measures 150x105x49mm and is compatible with M.2 Edge AI accelerators. Combining both Intel and Premio’s industry leadership, the RCO-1000-EHL implements both computing performance, durability, and reliability to the rugged edge.
- High-speed IoT-specific I/Os
- Scalable Universal I/O (from 1x to 5x Universal Expansion Slots)
- 2x External SIM Socket (Supports 5G/4G LTE, Wi-Fi 6, & Bluetooth 5)
- Wide Operating Temperatures (-40°C to 70°C)
- MIL-STD-810G Compliant (50G Shock & 5Grms Vibration Resistance)
- UL, CE, FCC Class A Certifications
Elkhart Lake: Overview and Technical Documentation
Elkhart Lake Platform Brief (https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/docs/processors/embedded/enhanced-for-iot-platform-brief.html)
Elkhart Lake, Apollo Lake, Bay Trail Atom Processor Comparison
Functional Safety (FuSa)
Timing Coordinating Computing (TCC)
Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN)