The rise of AI & machine learning have deeply impacted the way we conduct global business and operations.

Industries from HR to medical imaging to delivery services are leveraging the technologies to improve efficiencies and their respective bottom lines. We are now beginning to see the impact that these technologies can have on the background check industry, creating a wave of change in a traditionally conservative sector.

Over the last 50 years, background checks haven't changed much, still using significant numbers of employees to manually comb through an individual's background. The traditional players have typically been investigative firms with large budgets and wide scope.

However, gone are the days in which investigation companies have to go through phone records or paper court documents. Large amounts of information today are digitized, with the amount of digital information increasing tenfold every five years. According to Cisco, internet traffic is estimated to reach 278 exabytes (EB) per month by 2021, 1 Exabyte is the equivalent of 10 billion copies of The Economist.

The traditional background check companies are not equipped to cope with the new reality presented by the digitization of large amounts of information, which allows for new methods of research and investigation.

Only through technological innovation will companies have the ability to capture all this data. Old processes will need to be automated in order to optimize data collection, analysis and workflow to handle the overload of data.

What we are starting to see is the adaptation of background checks to the digital world, especially in the financial, employment and corporate worlds. Ranging from pre-hiring checks to pre-investment due diligence - where the stakes are high and consequences of corruption and falsehood could result in court dates. AI and machine learning are changing the way background checks are conducted.

These five "21st Century" data-focused background check companies are poised to make a huge impact in 2018.

In the pre-hiring world - a $3B and growing market -  Checkr is one of the leading firms implementing technology into its background check solution. Pre-hiring background checks come with significant regulatory red-strings attached, which become a burden to all companies large and small.

Through the use of AI to improve how records are categorized, the company currently works with a range of well-known companies - including Uber - and recently announced a partnership with ClearCompany, a leading talent management software firm. 

The company's online platform, Intelligo-Clarity, utilizes AI & machine learning technology that can conduct comprehensive background checks on people and companies in minutes.

Intelligo makes the background check process more efficient and user-friendly, eliminating turnover times and manual compilation of reports. The company's platform provides coverage of more than one million data points, letting clients form an understanding of research subjects better than traditional due diligence services.

Sterling is a well established player in the pre-hiring world and offers a comprehensive set of services, including background checks, I-9, drug screening and new hire smart-form solutions.

On the back-end, Sterling's cloud-based platform enables customers to place orders, manage tasks and monitor results in one place. Recently, the Merchant Banking Division of Goldman Sachs ("Goldman Sachs") and La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec ("CDPQ") agreed to acquire a majority interest in the company.

Exiger is a global regulatory and financial crime, risk and compliance company. In 2017 Exiger acquired OutsideIQ, the company that developed the cognitive computing and intelligent search platform DDIQ, which allows enterprises to leverage the power of machine-learning to accelerate and enhance critical due diligence related to third-party and counterparty risk.

Through the deployment of DDIQ, Exiger enables compliance teams to mitigate risks and meet demands of regulators by screening all available public data about a subject, and then producing auditable reports.

Onfido is a verification engine for enterprises with more than 1,500 customers, that allows fast, simple and easy ID Record Check and Document Checks. In September 2017, the company closed a $30 million financing round for its AI-based identity verification technology. 

2018 is going to be an exciting year for background checks. "Check back" with me next year to see how accurate I was in identifying the industry's rising stars, or which ones I overlooked.