Mobile phones that emit a piercing scream that will give all but the deafest thieves pause for thought was launched in Britain on Monday in a bid to tackle crime which costs millions of pounds each year.

The product, called Remote XT after the company that created it, is designed for application on smart handsets.

It is primarily targeted at the high-end of the market, typically business-users who may hold confidential data, such as emails, on their phones.

By making mobiles unusable to anyone but the rightful owner the phones become worthless and we will see the market for stolen handsets stamped out once and for all, said Mark Whiteman, managing director of Remote XT.

Theft-proof phones spell disaster for the huge criminal industry that has profited from mobile theft for too long, he said in a statement.

With the Remote XT security package, which costs subscribers 9.99 pounds a month, a signal is sent to the phone as soon as it is reported stolen. All the phone's data - like contact numbers, emails or images - is wiped and an ear piercing alarm also sounds.

Until now network providers were able to disable stolen phones from being used but could not necessarily provide data from being accessed.

The software, which backs up any wiped data, can also be used to scan for viruses as the latest generation of phones increasingly has capabilities similar to those offered on laptop computers.

About 700,000 mobile phones are reported stolen each year, although many will actually have been lost and many are not smart phones - devices which integrate applications such as Internet access or GPS navigation software - in addition to telephone functions.

The industry body charged with tackling mobile phone crime said any step aimed at deterring theft was to be welcomed.

Anything that adds an additional level of security, we will encourage, said Jack Wraith, chief executive of Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum (MICAF).

MICAF represents mobile network operators in Britain, some high street retailers and handset makers.