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Schapelle case prompts Qantas to go digital

Qantas has ordered the latest in IP-based digital video surveillance equipment as part of its plan to improve monitoring of passengers' baggage at its airport terminals and inside some of its aircraft.The moves comes after the high-profile case of Australian citizen Schapelle Corby, who was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison for transporting drugs into Indonesia.

Qantas has ordered the latest in IP-based digital video surveillance equipment as part of its plan to improve monitoring of passengers' baggage at its airport terminals and inside some of its aircraft.

The moves comes after the high-profile case of Australian citizen Schapelle Corby, who was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison for transporting drugs into Indonesia. Corby's defence team have insisted that the 27-year old is an innocent victim of an organised drug ring that involved corrupt baggage handlers.

A Qantas spokesperson on Friday confirmed to ZDNet Australia  that the airline had placed an order with Siemens and its wholly-owned subsidiary Alarmcom for the video security equipment and that the deal related to the company's general beefing up of security to help reassure passengers that their luggage was safe.

However, she declined to provide further details. The news was announced to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) on Thursday by NSW-based video surveillance specialist Zylotech, who said its products had been selected as part of the Siemens solution.

"On a national and international scale, IP-based video surveillance and digital recording technologies for airport and transport security is a burgeoning market," chief executive officer and managing director Bernard McGeorge said. "Zylotech and its tier 1 distributors, such as Siemens, are well positioned to take advantage of other upcoming tenders in the Australian and overseas markets".

Over the past few months, Geoff Dixon, chief executive of Qantas, has made numerous statements about improving security behind the scenes.

In April, Dixon said the airline was already operating almost 900 CCTV installations in Australia and despite the relatively low risk to passengers, the company would invest in order to improve the overall quality of captured footage.

"Our own statistics show that, despite recent publicity, incidents of baggage tampering within Qantas are extremely rare... That said, aviation security is very dynamic and we are continually upgrading and modifying procedures to meet changing circumstances... Significant additional equipment will ensure, as closely as possible, 100 per cent coverage of key baggage areas in terminals owned or solely leased by Qantas," said Dixon.

Dixon added that installing cameras in the holds of some of its aircraft was an unusual move that would require special permission: "This action by Qantas will require the support and authorisation of some government authorities within Australia," he said.

One of the major talking points in Corby trial was the fate of video footage that should have contained images of the Gold Coast girl's boogie board bag both within the Brisbane terminal and during its transfer to the aircraft taking her to Bali. Corby's lawyers argued that the footage was crucial to her case that someone else had placed 4.1 kilograms of marijuana in the bag while it was out of her sight. Unfortunately a combination of technical difficulties and erasing of the footage meant it could not be used in her defence.