By MARY SCHLEY – The Pine Cone9/22/2017, Page 3A

AS MOST tourists — and more than a few residents — know, finding a particular shop, restaurant or office in town can be difficult. With no numbered addresses, Google and Apple maps are generally at a loss when it comes to asking them to pinpoint a certain business. Instead, they might give you a ballpark location on a street, with no guarantee it’s actually near the place you want to be.

But Mike Bass, a longtime tech expert who went to work for himself in 2008, has solved that problem. His Carmel.Guide website (https://carmel.guide) includes exact locations and can provide walking or driving directions to 500 businesses in town.

“I think it solves a fundamental problem for end-users and business owners — a problem that Google and Apple maps have solved for every city in the country except Carmel,” said Bass, who lives in Santa Cruz but is often here for work as a consultant.

“What happens when a tourist looks for a business in Carmel? It just puts them on Dolores, but maybe near First, and they’re walking past houses,” he explained. “They don’t know whether Google is taking them on a wild goose chase or to an accurate marker.” In contrast, Carmel.Guide leads them to the front doors of whatever businesses they’re searching for downtown.

The guide, which Bass recently put online, “will not only benefit visitors, but also the city as a whole, economically,” he said. While creating it took “hundreds of low-tech hours,” including entering information about each business’ services, website, operating hours, location and other details by hand, Bass doesn’t charge people to use Carmel.Guide, or to be listed in it. Any business in town that’s not already included can simply create an account to be added, and anyone can use it to conduct a search.

Bass believes he has almost all downtown businesses in it already, but he wants to be sure to capture any that might have fallen through the cracks. “Participation from the business owners is key, so the only other part of the equation is that they know it’s free and always will be, because it has to be, in order to work,” he said. That’s because charging would mean some business owners might choose not to participate, which would leave gaps in the information the guide provides.

“I could have created something where I told everyone to create their listing, but it would take five years, and there would still be gaps,” he said. “You either do them all — and there are a lot of them — or you don’t do it.”

Bass spent decades working for big high-tech firms in Silicon Valley before heading out on his own in 2008. His company, Imagineer Design, offers tech support, website development, and photography and video services. While he hopes Carmel.Guide might bring him more customers, he said he just wants a lot of people to use it because it works.

“I’m an idea guy — that’s always been my fascination. How can tech do good things? Make businesses more efficient? It has to be useful,” he said.

And while he might be able to make money by selling ads on Carmel.Guide, they would add clutter. “I know my audience: It’s the tourist who puts that phone in their hand, so the focus is on user interface,” he said. “You can’t clog it up with ads. It has to be a few clicks to find a business and get there. It needs to be lean and mean.”

Bass calls this first version of the guide “Phase 1,” and plans to expand its offerings to help connect people and businesses in Big Sur and elsewhere, and perhaps to create a version that can be used even without a cell signal.