Alcatel-Lucent has unteathered its Laptop Guardian from its usual hardware form factor and turned it into a software solution, after entering into an agreement with wireless broadband provider Novatel Wireless.

The Laptop Guardian, or to give its formal name, the OmniAccess 3500 Nonstop Laptop Guardian is a card designed to solve the security problems posed by laptops, including the loss or theft of the data they contain.

The product itself is larger than a conventional 3G card, but doubles as a network card and a laptop 'ignition key'. The laptop's drives are encrypted, and the card contains all encryption keys and network passwords so the laptop cannot be used unless it is inserted. It contains an embedded Linux system, and a GPS receiver, as well as its own batteries, so it can be used to remotely locate and disable any laptop that goes missing.

It has now been ported to operate on Novatel's MiFi 2352, an HSPA version of Novatel's Intelligent Mobile Hotspot product. This announcement means that the Laptop Guardian card is now delivered as a software solution though a third-party product.

The pebble-like MiFi 2352 unit is actually a mobile broadband device that enables internet connectivity that can be shared between multiple users and WiFi devices such as laptops, gaming devices etc. It is the first time Alcaltel-Lucent has allowed its technology to be transported into a different form factor.

"The Laptop Guardian incorporates a VPN and firewall, and is designed to protect corporate laptops when they leave the office. It is an always on solution, and can be used to track laptops that go missing via its GPS and mobile triangulation system," said Michael J. Hardiman, director of business development, at Alcatel-Lucent's Enterprise Security Solutions unit. "10,000 laptops go missing every week, and 1,000 go missing a week go at Heathrow alone."

Last month, UK carrier BT started to sell Laptop Guardian bundled with its mobile express offering.

But Alcatel-Lucent is also keen to highlight the ability of Laptop Guardian to deal with patches. "How many users, when confronted with a message asking them if they want to apply a patch, select the 'not right now' option," asked Hardiman, speaking at Alcatel-Lucent's Dynamic Enterprise forum in Paris.

"We did a survey that found that 63 percent of laptops were missing security patches." He said that the patch is loaded onto the flash memory of Laptop Guardian and the patch is loaded or applied when the laptop is switched on,.

And it seems that the fairly clunky card that is Laptop Guardian will be changing, with a USB version currently in development and expected later in the year, which is useful bearing in mind that some laptops and netbooks are now starting to ship without a relevant card slot.

"USB is definitely the way to go," Dor Skuler, General Manager, Mobile Security Solutions, Enterprise Solutions Division told Techworld."The USB device is coming in the third quarter."

Alcaltel-Lucent said that pricing is upon application, but that in the United States, there is a typical cost of 10 euros (£8.91) per month charge. Of course, there is also the upfront cost of the hardware, as well as the cost for the server software, which is typically around 5,000 euros (£4,457) for up to 500 users.