Wireless Body Area Networks (WBANs) consist of a limited number of battery operated nodes that are used to monitor the vital signs of a patient over long periods of time without restricting the patient's movements. They are an easy and fast way to diagnose the patient's status and to consult the doctor. Device as well as network lifetime are among the most important factors in a WBAN. Prolonging the lifetime of the WBAN strongly depends on controlling the energy consumption of sensor nodes. To achieve energy efficiency, low duty cycle MAC protocols are used, but for medical applications, especially in the case of pacemakers where data have time-limited relevance, these protocols increase latency which is highly undesirable and leads to system instability. In this paper, we propose a low power MAC protocol (VLPM) based on existing wakeup radio approaches which reduce energy consumption as well as improving the response time of a node. We categorize the traffic into uplink and downlink traffic. The nodes are equipped with both a low power wake-up transmitter and receiver. The low power wake-up receiver monitors the activity on channel all the time with a very low power and keeps the MCU (Micro Controller Unit) along with main radio in sleep mode. When a node [BN or BNC (BAN Coordinator)] wants to communicate with another node, it uses the low-power radio to send a wakeup packet, which will prompt the receiver to power up its primary radio to listen for the message that follows shortly. The wake-up packet contains the desired node's ID along with some other information to let the targeted node to wake-up and take part in communication and let all other nodes to go to sleep mode quickly. The VLPM protocol is proposed for applications having low traffic conditions. For high traffic rates, optimization is needed. Analytical results show that the proposed protocol outperforms both synchronized and unsynchronized MAC protocols like T-MAC, SCP-MAC, B-MAC and X-MAC in terms of energy consumption and response time.
Keywords: MAC protocol; WBAN; patient monitoring; wakeup radio.