In wireless body area networks (WBANs), various sensors and actuators are placed on/inside the human body and connected wirelessly. WBANs have specific requirements for healthcare and medical applications, hence, standard protocols like the IEEE 802.15.4 cannot fulfill all the requirements. Consequently, many medium access control (MAC) protocols, mostly derived from the IEEE 802.15.4 superframe structure, have been studied. Nevertheless, they do not support a differentiated quality of service (QoS) for the various forms of traffic coexisting in a WBAN. In particular, a QoS-aware MAC protocol is essential for WBANs operating in the unlicensed Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) bands, because different wireless services like Bluetooth, WiFi, and Zigbee may coexist there and cause severe interference. In this paper, we propose a priority-based adaptive MAC (PA-MAC) protocol for WBANs in unlicensed bands, which allocates time slots dynamically, based on the traffic priority. Further, multiple channels are effectively utilized to reduce access delays in a WBAN, in the presence of coexisting systems. Our performance evaluation results show that the proposed PA-MAC outperforms the IEEE 802.15.4 MAC and the conventional priority-based MAC in terms of the average transmission time, throughput, energy consumption, and data collision ratio.
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