Scott, I *really* hope this is indeed more complicated on here than it will be in practice! Asking someone to type "#inventory:numberofinputs:8" to find consoles/interfaces with more than 8 inputs would be obscene.
I'm used to (like Riley) the Filemaker concept- here's a field, and if it's a category setup ("Consoles") you select a sub category in another field that has its choices populated based on your entry into the first field. So, after selecting "consoles," you then have console options in the second field.
I might be missing something here. I don't see the correlation of email address fields with this project. =-\
It's actually easier. Have you used any software with tags such as Office 365? The old style fields you refer to would be replaced with empty web cells. As you type the selections (some of which would be prepopulated to make sense like consoles, speakers, microphones etc. for device type as you mention).
So once we agree on the container hierarchy. To be it starts with two large groups things and places. From that point on we can drill it down. How we describe things and places.
The whole idea of this in my opinion is to add "where is my stuff" to "when I work". When I work is a fully object oriented PHP scheduler. Could you take a few minutes to go to their website and watch the trial video to get an idea how object tag fields work.
Here is a shot of a schedule box:
Tags are also great for experts because once you get fast at the system you can go to the search box and type site:pj and get all the gigs at PJ McCintyre's. I have been using WhenIwork for about 60 days now and it is nothing short of amazing. Already reached out to the developers about my Whereismystuff plug in. They have other industries that have developed plugins.
The API for WhenIwork is what is called a restful interface (again see below) and allows developers to quickly create these mashup relationships.
I don't want to get too excited (though I really am) but imagine the "where is my stuff" interface becomes the single point of truth for all your configuration data? We could easily store IP info, mappings, templates, scenes etc. and even launch you into the vendor app for configuration of the actual item. If you using one of the asset tagging services we would use their geo tracker API to display a map of where your gear is. Google provides a map API that let's you embed driving directions or birdseye Google Map data in your app all you do is pass them the address.
Since the app runs in a browser all these mashups are created with XML/Frames and rendered behind the scenes with no code required.
It's not your Daddy's linear code.
Filemaker is stone knives and bearskins. The speed at which you can develop in these nextgen platforms is nothing short of amazing.