The consumer electronics industry is going wild about wearable technology. The number of companies exhibiting gadgets at CES skyrocketed this January, with over 300 highlighting wearable healthcare devices alone.

Americans are taking a more measured approach. Very few have made a purchase, but awareness is rising and early adopters are clearly intrigued.

Consumer interest in wearable technology is surging

Over three quarters of adults have heard of wearable technology, and the numbers who want to learn more is increasing rapidly.

Health/fitness monitors and communications devices are the most compelling, with about a third of the population interested in each. Wearable electronics to monitor home security are also intriguing to many.

Consumers are most interested in gadgets they can wear on their wrist, followed by their arm. Technology enhanced eye wear comes in last place, which means Google Glass and Oculus Rift may face uphill battles.

Purchase intent is increasing

When asked about their purchase plans, consumers say they are more likely to increase their spending on devices than any other category of technology.

Over half of Americans are open to buying a wearable gadget in the future. There is significant purchase intent among 27%, which is a huge increase from the roughly 2% who currently own some type of on-body technology.

Men are more intrigued by this technology than women, and 18-35 year-olds are the most interested age group.

Current users are very happy

Of wearable technology owners, 82% say it enhances their lives.

The devices certainly make a difference in people’s behavior. Analysis of data from health trackers shows that owners increase physical activity and improve lifestyle choices when they monitor both via wearable technology.

Nonusers have reservations

Consumers who do not plan to buy wearable technology have a number of concerns. Cost tops the list. Privacy comes in second. A full one-third worries about their data being shared inappropriately. A quarter is put off by the idea of adding yet another device to their growing collection of electronics.

Finally, a significant group plans to stay on the sidelines until someone introduces wearable technology that is beautifully designed as well as highly functional (think Apple).

Marketing via wearables

As industry forecasters increase their sales projections, marketers are looking for ways to leverage wearable technology for marketing. However, brands need to proceed very, very cautiously. Consumers are likely to view these devices as even more personal than their cell phones. The more personal the gadget, the more reluctant Americans are to receive marketing on it, and the more quickly they are to label any type of interaction “creepy.”