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Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) have become a leading solution in many important applications such as intrusion detection, target tracking, industrial automation, smart building and so on. Typically, a WSN consists of a large number of small, low-cost sensor nodes that are distributed in the target area for collecting data of interest. For a WSN to provide high throughput in an energy-efficient way, designing an efficient Medium Access Control (MAC) protocol is of paramount importance because the MAC layer coordinates nodes' access to the shared wireless medium. To show the evolution of WSN MAC protocols, this article surveys the latest progresses in WSN MAC protocol designs over the period 2002-2011. In the early development stages, designers were mostly concerned with energy efficiency because sensor nodes are usually limited in power supply. Recently, new protocols are being developed to provide multi-task support and efficient delivery of bursty traffic. Therefore, research attention has turned back to throughput and delay. This article details the evolution of WSN MAC protocols in four categories: asynchronous, synchronous, frame-slotted, and multichannel. These designs are evaluated in terms of energy efficiency, data delivery performance, and overhead needed to maintain a protocol's mechanisms. With extensive analysis of the protocols many future directions are stated at the end of this survey. The performance of different classes of protocols could be substantially improved in future designs by taking into consideration the recent advances in technologies and application demands.
Date of Publication: First Quarter 2013