The main design objective of the IEEE 802.15.4 open standard is to support the wireless connectivity of a vast number of industrial, home, and medical applications, including automotive monitoring and control, home automation, ubiquitous and pervasive health care, gaming, connecting devices to a PC, and sensor rich environments.

Such applications require a small, low cost, highly reliable technology that offers long battery life, measured in months or even years, and automatic or semiautomatic installation. The IEEE 802.15.4 standard supports these requirements by trading off higher speed and performance for architectures that benefit from low power consumption and low cost.

Most of these applications require only low to medium bit rates (up to some few hundreds of kbps), moderate average delays without too stringent delay guarantees, and for certain nodes it is highly desirable to reduce the energy consumption to a minimum. The physical layer offers bit rates of 20 kbps (a single channel in the frequency range 868 –868.6 MHz), 40 kbps (ten channels in the range between 905 and 928 MHz) and 250 kbps (16 channels in the 2.4 GHz ISM band between 2.4 and 2.485 GHz with 5-MHz spacing between the center frequencies). There are a total of 27 channels available, but the MAC protocol uses only one of these channels at a time; it is not a multi channel protocol.