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A wireless body area network is a radio-frequency- based wireless networking technology that interconnects tiny nodes with sensor or actuator capabilities in, on, or around a human body. In a civilian networking environment, WBANs provide ubiquitous networking functionalities for applications varying from healthcare to safeguarding of uniformed personnel. This article surveys pioneer WBAN research projects and enabling technologies. It explores application scenarios, sensor/actuator devices, radio systems, and interconnection of WBANs to provide perspective on the trade-offs between data rate, power consumption, and network coverage. Finally, a number of open research issues are discussed.