Intel, ARM Up Competition in IoT With New Chips, More Security

Intel is rolling out the Atom E3900 low-power chips for the IoT, while ARM is unveiling a range of IoT products, from new SoCs to an SaaS offering.

Intel IoT chip

Chip rivals Intel and ARM are making deeper pushes into the increasingly competitive internet of things arena.

At the IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 25, Intel officials unveiled the latest iteration of its low-power Atom processors, the E3900 series (pictured), which is aimed at IoT applications and comes with greater levels of performance, security and image and video processing power, according to officials. The chips will drive greater intelligence to the fog and edge of the network.

For its part, at the opening day of the company's TechCon 2016 show in Santa Clara, Calif., ARM officials are rolling out a suite of products—from new chip designs and radio technology to a cloud-based services platform—that they say will deliver greater security, low-power connectivity and efficiency to IoT environments.

The new offerings come as the IoT continues to grow—officials with both Intel and Cisco Systems are predicting that by 2020, there will be more than 50 billion connected devices, systems and sensors worldwide generating 44 zettabytes of data each year—and security continues to be a concern, as evidenced by the recent high-profile distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that impacted such big-name sites as Twitter, Spotify and GitHub.

With the number of devices becoming connected and the amount of data being generated—and the need for greater security in the wide-open IoT space—tech vendors are looking to become key providers in the IoT market.

"There is a lot of opportunity from the edge through the core of the network … as well as in the data center," Ken Caviasca, vice president of Intel's IoT Group and general manager of platform engineering and development, told eWEEK.

Under CEO Brian Krzanich, Intel has been aggressively expanding its reach in a broad range of growth areas, including the IoT, where he wants Intel to provide the foundational technologies for all connected systems, from the network edge to the cloud and data center. The focus of the E3900 is driving more intelligence and processing power to the edge and in the fog, enabling more of the the collection, storage and analysis of the data to be done nearer the devices themselves.

The 14-nanometer E3900 series provides 1.7 times the computing power of the previous generation of Atom systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) to help deliver faster memory speeds and bandwidth farther out on the network. It's also built into a compact flip chip ball grid array (FCBGA) design, helping to make it a good fit for a broad array of IoT uses where scalable performance, space and power are important. Among the new features are Intel's ninth-generation graphics engine that delivers 2.9 times the 3D graphics performance of its predecessors and supports up to three displays. In addition, there are four vector image processing units for better visibility and quality video in low light, and Intel's Time Coordinated Computing Technology for synchronizing peripherals and networks of connected devices, creating network accuracy within a microsecond.

Bringing more processing power out to the network edge is important, given the use cases envisioned for the SoCs, such as software-defined cockpits in vehicles, from driving digital gauges and navigation to driving backup sensors and side-collision avoidance. Caviasca also pointed to high-end IP cameras, where in-device analytics is important.

There also are new and enhanced security features, including the Trusted Execution Engine 3.0, a dedicated security coprocessor, that's designed to keep malware away from IoT devices by not booting if there are any changes to the software code. In addition, it monitors the device to check it for physical tampering.

Caviasca said the E3900 series is just the latest step for Intel in an IoT effort that will include other Atom SoCs as well as Core and Xeon chips.

ARM officials are looking to build upon the 15 billion chips that its partners shipped last year, many of which they said were used for smart embedded devices. The company, which creates chip designs that are then licensed to processor manufacturers, has seen the IoT as a key market for several years. IoT security was a key focus at the TechCon show last year.

"The IoT already runs on ARM but the goal now is scale, which we are enabling today through a uniquely comprehensive set of technologies and services built to work together seamlessly," Pete Hutton, executive vice president and president of product groups at ARM, said in a statement.