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Advances in wireless technology and supporting infrastructure provide unprecedented opportunity for ubiquitous real-time healthcare and fitness monitoring without constraining the activities of the user. Wirelessly connected miniaturized sensors and actuators placed in, on, and around the body form a body area network for continuous, automated, and unobtrusive monitoring of physiological signs to support medical, lifestyle and entertainment applications. BAN technology is in the early stage of development, and several research challenges have to be overcome for it to be widely accepted. In this article we study the core set of application, functional, and technical requirements of the BAN. We also discuss fundamental research challenges such as scalability (in terms of data rate, power consumption, and duty cycle), antenna design, interference mitigation, coexistence, QoS, reliability, security, privacy, and energy efficiency. Several candidate technologies poised to address the emerging BAN market are evaluated, and their merits and demerits are highlighted. A brief overview of standardization activities relevant to BANs is also presented.