I had a strong IT background in the past. Didn't exactly get burned out on it, but fell into the controls field by happenstance and I love it. Many of the same principles apply (networking, protocols, programming), but without the monotony that I feel you might be experiencing. Do some googling on building automation, temperature control, or system integration. -Mike
A company called Loytec makes a controller called a Linx which integrates bacnet, zigbee, rs232, and a number of other protocols. Also has an ip server built in. It spits all the data points out through a data abstraction layer. Granted this is suited for commercial controls, but it seems to be what you are describing.
I 100% agree with you on that. I recently was looking for a manual for a motherboard (searched for the model and the word manual), and I got page after page of e-stores and review sites. Sure I could've been more specific using insite: or by putting it in quotes, but it goes to show how unintuitive results can be sometimes.